by Matt Haig
This is my third venture into the rather off-centre world of Matt Haig and it was every bit as enjoyable as the previous books. Whilst deeply entrenched in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, this book (as well as the other two I have read) don’t really fit in the genre at all.
It is not uncommon for Sci-Fi writers to delve into the workings of the human psyche, they usually reserve most of their time for the mechanics and “big question” stuff. Not Matt Haig. His books concentrate on what it is to be human, the frailties and strengths that make us what we are. They just happen to have a fantasy or Sci-Fi theme to hold it together.
In How To Stop Time, Matt Haig introduces us to time travel, but not as you might expect. Tom Hazard has a rare condition that slows down the ageing process. He looks 41 but he is actually over 400 hundred years old. He is not unique, there are others like him, but they work very hard to keep their existence a secret. After all, when people come across something they don’t understand, they inevitably want to destroy it. Trying to survive against the superstitions of 16th century England is not going to be easy.
The book wanders about a little, with continual flashbacks to various points during Tom’s life. To keep his secret Tom has had to keep moving, and over the centuries he has travelled a lot and seen more than any one person should. Needless to say, I really love this approach. There is something tongue in cheek about the whole thing that just adds another level to the story.
The book raises the question about life and longevity. Would any of us really want to live forever? How would we cope with watching everyone and everything we love grow old and die before us? How can you possibly hope to love, knowing that it will inevitably break your heart? Seeking eternal life is nothing new, it features in the mythology of almost every race and civilisation. It is a subject that has fascinated mankind since time immemorial. For Tom, it takes four centuries to come to terms with the grief of losing the people he held most dear – his mother and his wife, Rosie. His entanglement with the mysterious Albatros Society appears to offer him a reason for living and a distraction, but even there, all is not as it seems.
Matt Haig has a unique way of viewing the world and I was as intrigued by this book I was the previous three. I look forward to reading more in the future.