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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

ReReadable Books

February 2007

"The Soul-Time Hypothesis: Bending Time's Arrow"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



 To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,jl@simegen.com  for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  
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The Mirror Prince by Violette Milan, DAW Fantasy, July 2006

Hounding The Moon by P. R. Frost, DAW HC Sept. 2006

Fall of Knight by Peter David, Ace HC June 2006

Son of the Sword by J. Ardian Lee, Ace pb, Feb. 2003

Knight Tenebrae by Julianne Lee, Ace Hist. Fantasy Sept. 2006

One of the most popular story formats is Time Travel.

SF has explored time travel forwards, backwards and sideways with time-travel machines.

Fantasy does it by inventing some "other" world and providing (mysteriously) Medieval technology and politics, rarely anything actually superior to what we have.

Romance novelists love to do time travel with inexplicable magic so they don’t have to explain it, and rarely to some place better than ours.

As we discussed last month and previously, Vampire novels do time travel by having a long-lived character, and others do it my own favorite way with reincarnation and recovered prior life memories.

Now why is reincarnation with or without recovered memory my favorite method of time travel? My problem of course is purely philosophical.

As I see our "reality," humans are an integral part of the physical universe. Humans have free will, the freedom to choose our course through life. A natal chart limits your options, of course, but it also provides unique new options. We craft our life through free will choices – choices make a difference. But no matter what course we choose, we are on a journey toward soul maturation, toward wisdom.

Thus while I love a good alternate universe story, based either on the theory that there are either exactly eleven alternate universes or on an infinite number, I can’t see how alternate universes work in terms of soul growth from experiencing the consequences of choices and actions.

That is, if at every point of choice in your life you actually make all possible choices, generating a plethora of alternate universes – are you splitting your soul? Generating new souls? How does one soul learn if there are no definite consequences of choices, i.e. all choices get chosen?

In such alternate universes, you may meet alternate versions of yourself – or "you" might be dead, or never born. So what of your soul?

Vertical time travel, forward or backward, likewise poses me philosophical problems, but has more room to combine reincarnation with time travel. Perhaps you go back to teach yourself a lesson, or pay the price for misbehavior, or rescue a soul-mate, or even to change history to fix your current life.

Which brings us back to the problem of alternate universes – if you travel back in time, every decision you make back then splits off more alternate universes. How can a soul learn anything in all the confusion?

Kabalah depicts time as defined only within our "reality." In actuality, all of time from beginning to end "already" exists. That is from the perspective of the Creator of the Universe, time is already complete, so although you do have free will and your choices do have consequences, from the perspective external to time, you’ve "already" made those choices. Thus the Creator knows what you "will" do because from that external perspective it’s done.

That theory allows time travel and soul growth, but I don’t know what it makes of eleven (string theory) alternate universes – or an infinite number of alternate universes.

I generally regard Fantasy universes as "alternate realities" where some of the laws of physics, physiology, and para-psychology may differ but I don’t know where to fit soul-growth into such realities.

The most satisfying stories for me are the ones where the fantasy universe has been generated from or is connected to our everyday reality so you can go back and forth.

All of these kinds of novels are art forms, groping through the edges of our understanding to depict higher truths. The point is the story – the soul’s journey – not the surrounding universe in which the story is embedded.

But I see our souls as an integral part of our reality. As discussed last month, I’m pondering the implications of the idea that the soul enters reality through the dimension of time. Thus it seems to me that "time travel" (up, down, or sideways) would detach the soul from the universe.

Thus when I read time travel, A.U. or Fantasy novels, I focus on the mechanism of the fictional universe and how that mechanism cradles the souls of the characters.

If the artist depicts a relationship between soul and universe that resembles my own perceptions of reality, it’s easier to focus on the story. All too often, the authors hastily gloss over the mechanism of their universes, but even in doing so they raise questions that need pondering.

Here are five novels that bend time’s arrow to reveal soul-growth opportunities that we might otherwise miss from our everyday perspective. Even where the universe mechanism is not well developed, the questions raised in these novels are well worth considering.

The Mirror Prince by Violette Malan shows us two well drawn parallel realities, ours and another where a dire civil war is in slow progress. One man from that other universe can make a decision that will change everything. But he has been banished, sans memory, to our world where he’s lived centuries, having his memory altered to give him a new identity as he doesn’t age.

The story focuses on the problem of Identity from within the perspective of this man, Max, who doesn’t know which him is the real him. The answer to that question will determine his decision, upon which everything depends.

Hounding of the Moon, an urban fantasy by T. R. Frost sets a rollicking tone with a heroic woman who is a successful fantasy writer in everyday reality, but she becomes initiated into a secret cult that fights inter-dimensional incursions by "demons."

Demons from other dimensions bent on conquering or destroying our reality have become a favorite theme in fantasy. I’m still searching for a novel that describes a universe structure in which this theory makes sense. Hounding the Moon helps define some of these questions as we follow a very real person I can identify with (a writer) into a terrifying journey beyond our reality.

This set of books could not be complete without Peter David’s (Knight Life and One Knight Only) hilarious novel Fall of Knight. No magical education can be complete without an excursion into humor, so here Peter David tells us all about King Arthur revived in our modern world using Excalibur’s unicorn horn grip to save the world and become host of a TV talk show on PBS called Arthur’s Round Table. You gotta read this!

Another raging favorite setting for Time Travel Romance is Scotland.

J. Ardian Lee in Son Of The Sword takes us back in time to save Scotland from Britain. The mechanism here is a sword enspelled by a pixie so that when touched by the right descendent of a Matheson, it transports him and his modern martial arts skills to 1713 Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion. During the course of the novel he gets to choose if he wants to live in the 18th Century sand fresh fruit and antiseptics.

The karmic angles enthrall me. When offered a choice of a free book from a stack, I asked someone else to pick one for me. This is what I got, and I’m sorry it took so long to get around to reading it. I forgot to unpack it!

Son Of The Sword is a spritely good read that juxtaposes modern martial arts with ancient Scottish swordplay and karmic responsibility.

Julianne Lee in Knight Tenebrae takes us through time as the result of a recently met soul-mates accidentally thwarting an incursion from another dimension. They are thrown back to ancient Scotland and onto the mercy of the invading demon who hates them. She, a tough modern British reporter, has to masquerade as a boy, playing squire to him, an Air Force jet pilot, playing Knight In Shining Armor – sans shine.

Things get really interesting when she gets Knighted and promoted to sleeping with the other guys, not her own Knight, then has to switch identities and marry her Knight. The plot thickens further as they come to understand how they got displaced in time and hatch a plot to get back to their own time. When they succeed, is the "marriage" still valid? Do they want it to be? This novel begs for a sequel!

A whopping good story aside, this like the other novels here, use time travel or alternations in the laws of the universe as a device to frame the setting of the story.

We have become so accustomed to the story "device" not being taken seriously that we hardly notice how these little miracles are just shrugged off by the characters.

But if anything like this ever happened to me, I would obsess on the implications for the soul revealed by the alteration of reality.

To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,  jl@simegen.com for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  



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