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Format: Format Kindle
It's very rare nowadays to find a book that's based on a premise that hasn't been worked over dozens, or even hundreds of times before. However, when I received a promotional e-mail about Timothy Ashby's "Time Fall," I was caught by surprise, because its premise was that extreme rarity... something I'd never read before and that, frankly I wondered if the author could pull off for the course of an entire novel. Somewhat surprisingly, "Time Fall" delivers exactly what the publisher promises... a story about World War II American soldiers transported to the present day where they continue to battle on. Even better, author Ashby makes his storyline reasonably plausible and, more importantly, highly entertaining.
The story begins in April, 1945 (the same time as the popular new movie "Fury"), in the last days of the European campaign. An elite U.S. Ranger squad of six paratroopers is on a secret mission to land behind enemy lines in Bavaria. They are supposed to destroy as many military targets as they can and raise enough of a ruckus to convince the Germans a major offensive is taking place there so they will divert troops to Bavaria, weakening the defenses where the actual attack will take place. However, things don't go as planned when the paratroopers are somehow transported to the same location in the present day (actually 2011, when "Time Fall" apparently was written).
The squad, however, still thinks it's 1945, and, thanks to a bizarre set of coincidences, everything and everyone they encounter seem to appear and act consistently with their understanding (especially since they're moving at night and can't always see things clearly in the dark). The first target they attack is a military base now used by U.S. troops. They recognize the U.S. logos on the equipment but think the Germans are masquerading as Americans, just as they had done in the Battle of the Bulge. The second target is even more hostile; a group of Islamic terrorists is in hiding there planning a major terrorist attack. To pull off the attack, the terrorists plan to disguise themselves as police, and, wouldn't you know it, the police uniforms look much like World War II German army uniforms. Naturally, a big firefight ensues.
As soon as U.S. and German authorities learn about what happened, they start investigating, and it appears to them that the surviving G.I.'s from 1945 are actually surviving terrorists. To make matters worse, even though the soldiers think they're still involved in World War II, their remaining "target sites" contain lots of innocent civilians, and, unless the soldiers realize what's really happening and stop (or someone stops them), the results could be just as bad as an actual terrorist attack.
Ashby has clearly done a good bit of research into U.S. and German military history, and his description of uniforms, equipment, weapons, and other materials seems quite accurate. Further, he's put a lot of thought into his story, and most of what occurs is at least plausible enough for readers who enjoy this type of book to accept. His storyline soon becomes quite complicated, shifting from the point of view of the G.I.'s (who wind up getting separated) to the various people trying to find out who and where they are. Even though the story is complicated, Ashby describes events clearly and, for the most part, the action is easy to follow. Eventually, the plot does get a bit too contrived (it's hard to believe the squad could stay in a large estate and not be shown some form of modern technology that would help them realize they weren't in 1945 any more), but readers eager to see how things play out will probably not be all that annoyed.
As far as the characters are concerned, "Time Fall" is more of a mixed bag. The most fully developed character is the commander of the paratrooper squad, who, although he's injured and separated from his men, figures out what's really going on and, with the help of a local woman, tries to both stop and save his men. Unfortunately, some of the other characters are stock villains, including some ex-Nazis, who, despite being at least in their 70s, have somehow arisen to positions of power in the German police forces hunting the G.I's. The book has a few too many fanatics, whose language seems to come straight from an "Indiana Jones" movie.
On one level, "Time Fall" is a very well crafted gimmick book. Author Ashby takes a seemingly impossible premise and makes the action in the book seem plausible, with one clever explanation after another. However, the book is considerably more than a gimmick. Take away the time travel element and it's still a very good thriller, with a couple of quite likable central characters. I have a feeling that a number of people will experience their own form of time travel when they read this book: they'll lose complete track of time while they're reading and wonder just where the time went when they finish.