Buying Time by E M Brown
Publisher - Solaris
Publsihed - Out Now
Price - £7.99 paperback
I would like to thank the publisher for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review
In January 2017, something very strange happens to screenwriter Ed Richie. He wakes up one morning to find that he has been shunted back in time nine months and is now inhabiting the body of his younger self…Worse to come the following day he jumps three years, to 2013, with all his memories of the intervening years intact. What is happening to him? And where will his involuntary time-travel end?
Meanwhile, in 20130, journalist Ella Croft is investigating the life of screenwriter and celebrated novelist Ed Richie, who mysteriously vanished in 2025. She interviews friends, acquaintances, and old lovers – and what she discovers will change not only Ed Richie’s life, but her own…
We all have regrets and can recall the days we zigged rather than zagged – said x rather than y and our lives may be very different for good or for ill. In this novel we explore what would happen if you today could go back to certain days knowing what is to come.
Ed Richie is your standard mid-fifties hard-drinking self-loathing writer with a neat line in destroying his relationships (consecutively); after a particularly bad day he wakes up nine months earlier …but all memories intact. Can he change events? Slowly Ed notices a pattern after a few days he can feel himself tugged further and further back. Why is this writer being sucked through time? What is the impact of his arrival in the timestream knowing what is to come? Alongside this we see a dystopian future awaits the UK in 2030. The UK Conservative Govt fell into a dictatorship (as if ermmm) keen on censorship, arrests and violence. The increasingly right-wing US has started to outlaw homosexuality and people are fleeing to the newly independent Scotland. Into this journalist Ella Croft has decided its time to find out why Ed vanished. She has a personal investment in this man she never really understood, and her enquiries bring out people very keen to find her for their own agendas.
There is a lot going on in this novel. The idea of a person falling into their own life is fascinating and how Ed reacts and slowly tests his powers of memory is well done. It feels natural that you first doubt your sanity and then start to roll with it. You may realise you’ve never been the hero you are and that certain stupid things you did have long-reaching consequences with friends and lovers. My only issue is that the focus is very much on Ed rather than the times we are now in. In contrast the future we see Ella in is a horrifyingly plausible future where isolationism and populism create nightmares for the UK and other democracies. This a future where Trump, Brexit and economic collapses all make logical horrible steps to a more sinister country. If Ed’s story is on the personal Ella’s storyis more on how did we get there. It is quite an engrossing mystery as we see how these two are intertwined.
Annoyingly this also leads to the less satisfying part of the story. The focus on Ed is very much a stereotypical firebrand writer stuck in tv and radio. His drinking and constant chain of short-term relationships while is slowly explained often feels very flat. Often, we find his former flames all feel to have some fond feelings and there is a tendency to say he was flawed but not too bad and that doesn’t really come across in his behaviour and in fact just seems to pardon it. Ella’s story comes across as the more interesting as that nightmare world does feel a commentary on where we may be going however the ultimate way the two cross feels a little less than I expected to happen. Overall, I think this is a tale with some interesting ideas and a story and that makes it worth while but you may be shouting at the lead rather than encouraging him onwards