Review by Mack Hassler
Trained as a medievalist but now working mostly with stories about Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Tyler Tichelaar has learned how to weave in and out of time references perhaps from his work with Chaucer or the King Arthur stories. He has done a whole set of historical fictions on his town, and in Odin’s Eye, he moves to the inventions of time travel in order to explore the early founders of the town as well as a catastrophic future where climate change has both flooded the entire Upper Peninsula and effected international politics. Readers can enjoy these rapid shifts as Tichelaar sorts them out one by one. He is a very good storyteller with an interesting cast of characters starting with a fictional namesake Neill Vandelaare, who has completely lost his memory at the beginning of the novel. He is brought back to Marquette from the Huron Mountain Club up along Lake Superior where is found unconscious, and the year is 1900.
Eventually the reader learns that Neill and two friends had discovered an ancient time travel device (a globe from the neolithic somehow powered with buttons as well as with runes that can dangerously transport them far into the future with the awful flooding; Neill and his friends mess with that but wisely stabilize themselves in 1900 and eventually Neill gets back safely to 2021 and the relatively less dangerous conditions of the pandemic. It is surely a wild ride through time, and Tichelaar manages to keep it straight for the reader. Traditionally, of course, time travel as a narrative format must be managed so that no protagonist goes back in time in any way that will effect his or her ancestry. No story should ever prevent the marriage of the grandparents of a narrator, lest that narrator not exist to tell his or her story. That dilemma is handled well by Tichelaar.
A key passage is the story of Neill and his two friends finding the time travel device, the strange globe from the past with very futuristic controls; and they realize that tinkering with the controls can move them backwards and forward in time. The globe must be handled with delicacy. It is, in fact, the eye of Odin of the title. We always seem to want to go back to our origins, our very ancient past, in order to find meaning. Freud might label this tendency “Oedipal.” Fathers are our great authority figures. We sit in bed with our Dads in the early morning and he tells us the meaning of our lives. Then we tell ourselves stories to interrogate this heavy paternalism. Tichelaar in his other fictions and, now, with explicit time travel wants to discover all he can about his world — the world of Marquette and of the UP. The best time travel novel I am familiar with is one by Isaac Asimov: The End of Eternity (1955). Even the title has a great pun that captures the intellectual dilemmas (even the theological puzzles) that we encounter if we fiddle with the devices—the pun, of course, turns on the word “end” as both the purpose of eternity as well as the close of all time. Tichelaar hints at that with a nicely doctored picture of the submerged towers of what seems to be a Marquette church. The other pictures in this handsome book are of the cabin at the Huron Mountain Club, the mansions in Marquette and their interiors in 1900 as well as a great photo of Peter White and of other community leaders from the time. Like his historical novels, Odin’s Eye does literally transport us nicely back in time. I would say that Tichelaar is nearly an Asimov for the UP with his productivity and his narrative skills and his probing intellectuality.
Odin’s Eye, A Marquette Time Travel Novel, by Tyler R. Tichelaar (Marquette Fiction 2023) 417 pages illustrated, paperback, $9.