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The Review Man

Formerly of Goodreads, now of both words, in the coming times only here?

Currently reading

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
Robert M. Pirsig
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Jean Baudrillard, Sheila Faria Glaser
Leaven of Malice
Robertson Davies
The Salterton Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Effi Briest (Penguin Classics)
Theodor Fontane
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Cases And Materials On The Law Of Torts
Robert M. Solomon
Public Law : Cases Materials and Commentary
Philip Bryden, Craik, Neil, Craig Forcese, Forcese, Craig
A Property Law Reader
Bruce H. Ziff
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle I did not enjoy Planet—it is pointlessly dense and features a largely irrelevant plot. Any of A Wrinkle in Time's charm is completely lost here, and time travel to the past is about as stale a plot device as they come. (It's also quite likely to be impossible for reasons outlined by Stephen Hawking. Then again, doesn't Charles ride a unicorn in this one? Perhaps adherence to the rules of reality isn't one of L'Engle's strong suits.)

The story does manage to present (or at least name-drop) an interesting ethical idea: is it admissible to time travel in order to stop an evil person? But that question is not germaine to the plot if one cannot establish that Mad Dog is actually evil. We're not presented with a terribly clear picture of the man himself, so we're left only with authorial hearsay upon which to establish the nature and magnitude of his evil. And even if he were truly evil, should Charles be permitted to travel backward through time and potentially create a catastrophe just to stop him? Unfortunately, L'Engle does not explore these ramifications in great detail. Her child protagonists are too gratingly Manichean to stimulate meaningful ethical dialogue.

Instead we are treated to a derivative time-travel adventure bolstered only by the cheap emotional catalysis of sundry yawn-worthy faux-historical events. It is never revealed why the book is completely founded on such an absurd ideological genealogy, but I'm sure it will be well received by the same crowd who ate up Cloud Atlas. Saying "we're all connected" is a nice thought, but how should we then live? This idea is explored to great effect in Krzysztof Kieślowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy and in La Double Vie de Véronique, but I can't say A Swiftly Tilting Planet reaches those same heights or even bothers to aim for the same galaxy. Shame, really.