Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


***The Plot to Save Socrates

by Paul Levinson

Reviewed April 24, 2006.
Tom Doherty Associates Books (Tor), New York, 2006.  271 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN F LEV).

Beginning in the year 2042, this is a book about time travel, its implications and its possibilities.

Sierra Waters, a doctoral student studying ancient Athens, is given a newly discovered manuscript copy of a dialogue of Socrates.  In this dialogue, a visitor comes from the future and asks Socrates to come with him, ahead in time.  The visitor has prepared a mindless and soulless clone to take Socrates’ place in drinking the hemlock.  Then history will not be changed, but the future will have the benefit of Socrates’ wisdom.

The weekend after Sierra sees the manuscript, her mentor, Thomas O’Leary, who showed it to her, is not where he said he would be.  Then the news reports that he was lost at sea in a completely different part of the world.  She searches on the computer to find out more—and finds a photo of Thomas standing in front of a club in New York City.  The picture was taken in 1883.

The story is fascinating, visiting ancient Athens and Alexandria and Phrygia, as well as future London and New York City and, of course, Athens.  Mostly, it follows the timeline as lived out by approximately five main characters.  So it’s easier to follow than you might think.

However, in skipping around through time and characters, the author does leave out some crucial moments that I wish were there.  At one point, we find Sierra with a new lover.  At first, I thought she was simply the sort who would sleep with anyone.  It turns out that he is supposed to be the love of her life.  I wish that the author had let us see the two meet and fall in love, and we would have been much more in sympathy with their wish to stay together.

He also doesn’t quite wrap things up at the end.  We don’t find out what becomes of the mastermind behind the time travel chairs.  And we don’t find out why he wanted Socrates to come to the certain time the mastermind picked.

Aside from those quibbles, this is a fascinating book, with a taste of ancient philosophy along with futuristic times.  The only other book I’ve read that’s remotely like it is The Time Traveller’s Wife.  However, this story is completely different, more about adventures and intrigue and elaborate plots for changing history than about the relationship between one man and woman.  It’s more of a treat for the mind than the heart, though the heart is touched a little bit as well.

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund. All rights reserved.

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