What I gleaned about the story: Charlie is a young man who’s been entirely forgettable for as long as he can remember, but on his 16th birthday he suddenly learns the reason why: he and his family are unstuck in time. But before Charlie learns what that means, his father disappears, and in a desperate bid to find him, the boy follows a strange man into a dark alley. And emerges into 18th century London.
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Analysis: My mother loves me and all, it’s just that she can’t remember my name. And with that one sentence, I am already relaxing. I know this is going to be a good story. I don’t know yet if it’s well edited, but this is a writer’s opening line. There’s an entire short story hidden in that one sentence.
Analysis: In fact, the whole opening sequence is very well crafted. Charlie is an accomplished athelete and a good student. So why is it that when he jumps more than two feet higher than anyone else at the school track meet, somebody else takes the medal? And why does his home room teacher always seem surprised when she reaches his name on the attendance list? It’s because he’s completely forgettable. But that’s okay. He’s used to it, and it’s been happening all his life.
What appeals to me about this is that it’s not overdone. Charlie seems entirely at peace with it. It’s just a weirdness about the way his life has always gone. And by showing it to us in that way, and with that casual acceptance, it makes it all the more curious, and makes him all the more likeable.
Analysis: I love the mechanism of the iPhone. When Charlie goes back in time, the phone in his pocket gets transformed into a tiny notebook. All his contacts are in there, in his handwriting, and even his photos are there, converted into hand-drawn pencil sketches of the original scenes. It’s a very nice touch.
Note: I really enjoyed this and didn’t get bumped out even once. The period details seem real—almost too real, in some places—and the dialect seems entirely convincing. (I won’t say that is real, because I don’t know what gutter-snipes really sounded like in 18th century London.) But this has jumped to the top of my reading list and I’ll be continuing the journey later tonight.
Addendum: I finished it that very night, and enjoyed it all the way to the end, so Untimed was chosen as one of the 8 books to represent ImmerseOrDie in the first IOD StoryBundle collection.
Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.