Appel, Allen. Twice Upon a Time.

NY: Carrol & Graf, 1988.

This is the second book of a very above-average time travel series, featuring New York history professor Alex Balfour, who can’t control when he will be yanked back to an earlier time or when he will return. But he has come to look forward, rather guiltily, to the alive-ness he feels adventuring in the past. There’s also the matter of his girlfriend, Molly, a New York Times reporter, with whom he has reestablished a relationship after a ten-year gap.

This time, Alex finds himself transported back to Philadelphia in 1876 and the Centennial Exhibition, where he gets involved with a pair of captured Indians (survivors of the Kettle Creek Massacre) and General Custer, and also a group of black men who work at the fairgrounds.

He also becomes buddies with Sam Clemens, there to write a newspaper article on the Exhibition, and the two organize the escape of the captured Indians and their return to the valley of the Little Big Horn. The social themes under discussion, of course, are racism and the treatment of both ex-slaves and the Indians by American society. And the author slips in a number of sly clues as to the sources of Mark Twain’s future novels.

This time, too, Molly has her own parallel plot, involving the manhunt for a slightly insane Ogallala Sioux who has declared himself the descendant of Crazy Horse and begun shooting White men who poke in where they decidedly don’t belong. He’s been having visions and decides it’s time to restart the war against the white man. Molly is smart and tough, and what happens to her is a bit shocking to the reader; we’re not used to the Heroine suffering what she does — not in a science fiction novel. But again, Appel rings all the changes and keeps the reader’s close attention.


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