Review: A Window Into Time, Peter F. Hamilton, 2016.
I stayed in the flat by myself for the rest of the week and watched the shows I wanted—old stuff like Stargate and House, MD, which was great. I like House; he’s smarter than everyone else, and he’s not scared to show it. I’m going to act like that when I’m older.
Julian Costello Proctor is an aspergy, obsessive, thirteen years old, and the kind of bright kid who could tell you the “brace position” on an airplane isn’t there to protect you. It’s to protect your skull so the airlines can identify your body. He’s also naïve and believes everything on the Internet.
He’s also the narrator of Hamilton’s surprisingly charming novella. Hamilton frequently does family stories, but this is his most condensed, and the one we can most identify with because of its contemporary setting and characters who aren’t the superrich.
Julian has a perfect memory which is why the worst day of his life isn’t going to go away. It’s his thirteenth birthday, his divorced dad is marrying a new woman only nine years older than Julian and Julian’s not invited to the wedding, and Julian’s mother dies after slipping on some birthday cake frosting Julian spilled on the floor.
Julian is packed off for a bit with Uncle Gordon, the only relative who realizes that, yes, Julian really does remember everything. Gordon, trained as a physicist but who spent many years touring with rock bands as their sound engineer, now scrapes by selling audio accessories.
It’s after Julian has a weird experience of recalling a memory not his own — Is it time travel? Reincarnation? Some strange ability Julian shares with his ex-pat paternal grandfather in Spain? – that Gordon brings up Haldane’s famous remark about the universe being queerer than we can imagine.
Julian finds out he’s getting memories of one Michael Finsen, a man living in the Docklands of London. And Julian begins to fear that Finsen has a threat in his future, a threat Julian has to stop.
The thriller plot is well done, but side-by-side with it is the maturing of Julian. By sharing the memory and experiences of adult Michael, Julian gains some understanding about adult life and its emotions and concerns, what’s true and what isn’t, the ideas of romantic love and sacrifice, and that the world isn’t simply a division of the smart and stupid. It’s not a complete understanding, but maybe he wouldn’t even have that without his odd experience.