Time and Again/From Time to Time Critical Essays

Walter Braden Finney


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

A prolific writer of novels and short stories, Finney specialized in thrillers and works of science fiction. He probably is best known for the novel The Body Snatchers (1955; reissued as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1973), a horrifying tale of alien pods from outer space that take over the bodies of humans. It first was filmed in 1956 and was remade in 1978. Over the years, Finney wrote thirteen novels, some of which also were translated to film, including Five Against the House (1954; filmed in 1955), Assault on a Queen (1959; filmed in 1966), and Good Neighbor Sam (1963; filmed in 1964).

Finney’s writings about time travel preceded his more popular novels. In 1957, he published The Third Level (released as The Clock of Time, 1958, in the United Kingdom), a collection of twelve short stories written over a span of ten years. All the stories explore the concept of time travel. In “The Third Level,” a New York City commuter discovers a mythological third level at Grand Central Station in which the year is 1894 and all trains depart for happier destinations. “Second Chance” tells of a young man who rebuilds an old car, only to be transported back to the 1920’s. In “I’m Scared,” the narrator presents a series of seemingly unexplainable events that point to the existence of parallel worlds in time. “Of Missing Persons” features Charley Ewell, a young man who buys a bus ticket to the paradisiacal star, Verna, “where life is the way it should be.” He balks on arrival and spends the rest of his life regretting the opportunity lost. Many elements found in these early stories foreshadow those in Time and Again...

(The entire section is 706 words.)