I was really excited when I read about Time Traveler (published by Righter Books) and sent a request to author E. B. Alston to review it. I mean – it sounded like the perfect combination of science fiction (with the time travel) and history. In fact, I thought it was going to be a meld of scifi and historical fiction.
I noted that the author makes a point of saying the novel is not historical fiction. In my hubris, I remember vaguely thinking, “We’ll see…”
The author knew exactly what he was talking about. Time Traveler is not a work of historical fiction. However, I was in no way disappointed. It’s a fanciful story that takes places partly in the twenty-first century, partly in the nineteenth century, and makes a few allusions to activities in the late twentieth century.
To summarize, Ethan McRae is born in the late twentieth century, and raised almost exclusively by his mother. In fact, he rarely, if ever, sees his father (and never visits) after turning four. He knows he has eight older brothers, but never sees them either. growing up alone with his mother. He becomes successful, attending West Point, serving in the middle east, and eventually landing a corporate job with a telecommunications company, at which he’s excelling. After a failed marriage, he encounters a lovely young woman, is swept off his feet, and marries her in haste… Then he discovers, she believes in time travel.
Ethan’s wife, Bess, discovers a stable portal through which the two can travel between the early twenty-first and mid-nineteenth century, and the two begin visiting on their weekends. They make friends in the pre-Civil War south, returning home during the week to their lives of work… and a new found passion for studying nineteenth century U.S. history. Eventually, the two make the decision to move to the 1800’s, which becomes their permanent home.
The balance of the story is the rest of the McRae’s life. He becomes an officer and ultimately a general for the confederacy in the Civil War. After the way, he becomes a successful farmer, and raises a large family. The story encompasses the war, of course, tragedies personal and societal typical of the era, and no small amount of adventure.
One of my favorite aspects of the story is how McRae leverages his knowledge from the time in which he was born. He becomes a person on the cutting edge of new technologies. He doesn’t always buy it immediately, but he knows what to expect and knows when it’s worth it to invest in what seems, to most, new, unfamiliar, and terribly expensive. From a steam engine (which is used in ways including as a tractor) to just a new style of long gun for hunting, the character knows when to make a move to take the best advantage. All of the studying he did before and after his move 150 years “backwards” paid off.
So, Time Traveler is, as the author states, not a historical novel. The story in no way represents historical events. However, it takes so much of its life from those historical times, one cannot help but be drawn into the period. Even though I knew the actual general McRae was a different person with a different life… I ended up looking him up
just to make sure to see what his life as really like. In other passages, other concepts and ideas are explored that also bring the reader to contemplate how they played out – or might have played out – differently in history. The character McRae, after the civil war, sets up a new farm, smaller than a plantation, with a successful sharecropping system that trains and is beneficial to the former slaves who participate. Knowing the historical reputation for the poverty in which most sharecroppers lived, one must begin to consider how the fictional General McRae approached the system differently, what challenges he was able to ameliorate through alternative social and management structures, and which he simply was not.
Finally, Time Traveler may not be a historical novel, but the author includes a list of references at the end of the book he used while writing the story. I looked at that list and immediately felt drawn to the books that led to the fascinating, sometimes sorrowful, but always interesting stories of Ethan McRae, his family, and his friends.
Homeschool mamas, one caution. The story refers to multiple sexual situations, primarily to physical relations between husband and wife. There is no graphic detail provided. Please preview/pre-read the story if you are considering this title for your child or teen and this is an area of concern.
Time Traveler is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format, and is available at no cost through Kindle Unlimited. If you still haven’t tried Kindle Unlimited, click here to start your free 30-day trial, and read Time Traveler at no cost. You do not need to own a Kindle device to benefit from Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited books can be read on mobile devices, your computer, or through a browser such as Firefox, Chrome or Safari.
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