4 out of 4 stars
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The Time Opener: 1692 by James Tracy is a fascinating science fiction story about time travel, the past, and human decency to those who need it most. With a wide range of characters from both the present and the past, some of which are historical figures, and a plot that never stops moving forward, this book is a wonderful work of science fiction that will keep readers riveted from start to finish.
In retrospect, time traveling to Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 during the height of the witch trials was probably a bad idea. In The Time Opener: 1692, a group of scientists develop a device that allows them to travel through time and mistakenly end up in the year 1692. When they are accused of witchcraft and chased through the woods, they are able to make it safely back to their own time in the future, but accidentally leave behind their time opener. It is later discovered by two Puritan travelers who find themselves in the 21st century and very out of their depth. Cyrus and Aaron may be out of time, but they discover that kindness is universal and are taken in by two college students, Jeremy and Lisa. Jeremy discovers how to fix the time travel device with the help of a professor and they attempt to send their new friends back home. However, the scientists who invented the time turner are on their trail and at the last minute, Jeremy and Lisa find themselves trapped in the past, facing a trial for witchcraft and unable to defend themselves. They must rely on their new found friends Cyrus and Aaron to save them from the hanging tree and get them back home where they belong.
Tracy does a good job of incorporating details about Salem that are part of the historical record, including characters. Anyone who has studied early American history or has read books or watched modern television shows about the witch trials will be familiar with some of the details included in The Time Turner: 1692. Cotton and Increase Mather were historical church figures who were part of the Salem witch trials and major proponents of witchcraft being real and practiced in Salem. The characters are tried by the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which was the court in historical Salem Town responsible for trying witches. Many of the characters that the main time travelers meet in jail and those who prosecuted them were based on real people who were accused or accusers at that time in history.
One of my favorite things about The Time Opener: 1692 was the way that it made sure to deal with the repercussions of the plot on the characters’ emotional health. Duncan is a black man who suddenly finds himself in 1692, where he is confronted with institutional racism, abuse, and contempt from all the citizens of Salem because of the color of his skin. Instead of merely touching on the issue and moving on, Tracy devotes time to exploring the emotions this elicits from the character, how he copes with these attitudes, and why he ultimately makes the choice to not allow hatred to take root in his heart. In the same way, Lisa faces traumatic events in the past, including a physical examination where she is stripped naked in front of several leering men and molested. Her feelings of revulsion and violation are explored as well as the way they stay with her long after she is back in her own time.
I have decided to give The Time Opener: 1692 a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. It is relatively well written and Tracy has created a unique, historically accurate story of time travel in a genre that has been done so many times it can quickly become stale. I very much enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to fans of Michael Crichton’s Timeline or the resurgence of books and television shows about Salem during the witch trials.
The Time Opener: 1692
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