In Apple Blossom Time by Robert Wack starts with an interesting Prologue—a time traveler jumps back and forth in time between different locations in World War II Europe tracking another man important to the time traveler’s mysterious mission. It’s a violent struggle, as the traveler sometimes kills his quarry and then sometimes loses him.
The Prologue promised a novel filled with paradoxes and alternate timelines. In my opinion, however, the novel did not deliver on that promise.
Dr. Willem von Stockum is an American mathematician who abandons a lucrative academic career to join the British Royal Air Force prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. He’s disgusted with America’s indifference to Nazi oppression in Europe and wants to do what he can to free his Dutch homeland from the Nazi invaders.
When his bomber is shot down over Normandy during the D-Day invasion, a group of lost American paratroopers rescue him from the wreckage. They hide from the German army in a French home with members of the French Resistance and two strangers who tell peculiar stories about the fantastical theories von Stockum will one day develop. Von Stockum ultimately has to choose between believing the absurd stories of these strangers, or doing the right thing in the here and now.
There were quite a few good things about this book that kept me reading.
The author knew his material; details of the Normandy invasion and the mathematics of quantum physics and the Theory of Relativity were all authentically presented within the narrative.
The dialogue was spot-on for the era and expertly rendered; whether it was Americans or British or even the French speaking, I could hear their accents without the author resorting to phonetically spelling them out (e.g., “ve have vays of making you talk!”).
What bothered me, however, was that the book felt like the author expanded a beautiful short story into novel length by adding flashbacks, reveries, and information dumps. The first third of the book was filled with von Stockum thinking about his past, reminiscing with fellow pilots, or reading letters from home. He didn’t do much. I found myself skipping pages of von Stockum reveries just so I could get back to the American paratrooper story lines, which were quite exciting.
The second thing that bothered me was that the time travel element was not as important to the story as I had hoped. The paratroopers and von Stockum simply thought of the time traveling strangers as either German spies or lunatics, and the strangers didn’t seem to impact the decisions of the main characters in any significant way; if they did, it was way too subtle for a promised ‘time travel’ novel.
Still, if most of von Stockum’s ruminations were cut out and a more impactful role given the time travelers, I think In Apple Blossom Time would have made a marvelous short story or novella. But as a novel, I can only give it 3 of 5 stars.
In Apple Blossom Time is available on Amazon.
Cross-posted on New Podler Review of Books.