Out of Time

By Lynn Abbey

To start with, Out of Time is part one, of three, but it doesn’t say so anywhere that I could find. That’s rather sneaky, because there are plenty people like me and Irina who never buy trilogies if they can help it. Trilogies nowadays are almost inevitably over-written, overly detailed, rather boring romps through enough plot for a novelette padded and stretched into three volumes.

  • Author: Lynn Abbey
  • Title: Out of Time
  • Pages: 311
  • Published: 2000
  • Publisher: Ace
  • ISBN: 0-441-00751-1

And Out of Time is no different. Yes, there are spots of action, but they are far and few between. The central conceit — daughter has inherited magic from disappeared mother, but only finds out when she’s almost too old to learn — is a bit trite. There’s a nice, budding romance between the old woman and a young man, but at the start of the book I was struck by the idea that Lynn Abbey probably hasn’t written this book for men.

Not just because of the overly detailed descriptions of the nice, new-agey house of the main character, Emma Carrigan, but the deep delving in the mechanics of guilt trips — and the automatic assumption that when a woman feels guilty about something, it’s really a man who has both forced her to feel guilty, and who has done that for which the woman feels guilty.

Anyway, it’s easy enough a read, but nothing outstanding, and I don’t look forward to part three — I haven’t grown fond enough of the rather insufferable, prudish Emma Carrigan, to want to know whether she’ll date with young computer whiz Matt in part II and marry him in part III.

Oh, and as a random parting shot: this book does what many other books do, too. Writers nowadays get told that the first line, the first chapter should immediately grip. Action is off the essence — even if that action is just coping with a little adverse weather. One shouldn’t start at the beginning and then slowly build up. Bertram Wooster has commented on this tendency, too.

But most stories have a beginning, and that begin is seldom in the middle. So, what does the obedient modern author do? He grabs the start of chapter 3, the first two pages or so, moves them to the begin of the book, and then, when the action has grabbed the reader, continues with chapter 1, in the form of a long flashback. And Out of Time is no exception.