All Times Possible Critical Essays

Gordon Eklund


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The flyleaf blurb (presumably written by the book’s editor and publisher, Donald A. Wollheim) describes All Times Possible as a “uchronian” novel, borrowing that label from Uchronie (1876), Charles Renouvier’s pioneering exercise in alternate history. In fact, though, the pattern of the plot is an elaboration of the device employed in Ambrose Bierce’s famous short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1891): The main narrative is a momentary hallucination experienced at the point of death. This is confused by the fact that by far the largest part of the main narrative is told from viewpoints other than that of the protagonist and that these supposedly objective accounts extend beyond the moment of O’Mara-as-Bloome’s death. The conclusion makes it clear nevertheless that the narrative is a hallucination.

All Times Possible also is strongly reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s classic tale of alternate worlds, The Man in the High Castle (1962), in that the ordinary world remains outside the scope of the story as the protagonist struggles to adjust psychologically to the fact that he has lost his grip on his own identity and the solidity of his own world. The fact that O’Mara, at the moment of death, finds himself reliving the life of a man whose identity he stole, in a world in which he was never born, must be taken as an expression of his guilt, but he makes it clear that his adventure as Tommy...

(The entire section is 512 words.)