A good murder

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Ice Rose by Oxana Doroshkevich

I recently spent an entire weekend in my PJs. I wasn’t depressed or recovering from a hangover – well okay, maybe I did have a headache from the previous night’s wine – but the reason I passed on a costume change was because of the Hulu series 11.22.63; a TV adaptation of Stephen King’s novel by the same name. A novel I loved so much I named my dog, Sadie, after the female lead.  The premise of 11.22.63 is that the world would be a better place had JKF lived. Jake, a thirty something divorced English teacher, travel back in time to stop the historical assassination.

Not that long ago a friend asked me for some book recommendations. I rattled off three titles. The first being 11.22.63, the second was Time after Time by Ben Elton and the third Dragonfly in amber (the second book in the Outlander series) by Diana Gabaldon. Elton’s novel is about an unmarried, childless ex-soldier who goes back in time to stop the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinanad; Gabaldon’s novel (if you have SOMEHOW not heard of it) is about a time travelling ex-WWI nurse who is trying to stop the Battle of Culloden. Time travel, time travel, time travel.

While binge watching the TV version of King’s story, and generally ignoring life, I wondered what it was about time travel that made it so appealing. Really, it’s just an exaggerated version of a basic human desire: an undoing of all our bad decisions. The university degree, the job, the house or – eek! – the spouse. You don’t only pine to rewind the big bad decision, but the small ones too: the dumb comment you made to your boss, the racist joke you made at a mate’s BBQ or smashing the car door into an abandoned trolley at Woolworths.

These stories are often told through the eyes of someone travelling back in time. Someone who has the advantage of knowing what is going to happen. What a comfort! To know what is going to happen – even the bad events – oh how much easier life would be if you could prepare yourself for such things. I’ve talked with friends about this and many said they would rather not know, that knowing future outcomes would take the fun out of life. I mean really, how much fun are you having? I think knowing the future would really take the pressure off, you would know how much energy to put into project and people. You’d know what ventures would be fruitful and which ones to leave on the shelf. If you knew a particular action would end in disaster, you could rethink your strategy or abandon it entirely. What’s so lousy about calm waters anyway? How much are you enjoying the sea-sickness of life?

Time travel also provides a tidy answer to the question ‘Why am I here?’ Characters are given, or are compelled to carry out, specific tasks. They have a job to do and they are going about the business of doing it. Usually the characters are attempting to stop a war or the death of a significant figure, believing this will ensure a better future. It’s action with heart. This sense of purpose is big, bloated but wonderfully fun. In the open waters of our regular days we don’t know what our purpose is. We have to decide for ourselves how we want to spend our time and hope we don’t regret it later. (And yes, I fully acknowledge that if this is a privilege; not everyone has this kind of freedom).

So that’s it! My three reasons why folks love time travel tales. If you haven’t read 11.22.63 I recommend that you do. I won’t judge if you skip the book and head straight for the show; it’s not the same, but it stays true to the story. Both are tales of action with heart.

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