Review by Deborah Frontiera
In Odin’s Eye: A Marquette Time Travel Novel, Tichelaar’s main character, John/Neill Vandelaare, wakes up with no memory of who he is or how he came to be in a bed in the home of the Allen family. The year is 1900, the place, Marquette, Michigan. He learns that he was found “in strange clothing” by people at the Huron Mountain Club, where he had apparently fallen over the edge of a cliff. As he gains strength, he finds some places and names familiar to him, but no one seems to recognize him. He has flashes of the present—cars, cell phones—without understanding them. He doesn’t mention these to the family he is staying with for fear they will think him insane, but wonders if he is a prophet, or if he is actually from the future. The family begins to call him “John”.
The author, who is extremely knowledgeable about Marquette history, weaves in many facts about the prominent families of the day through dialogue. “John’s” use of the words “cool” and “neat” elicit what he considers strange responses: ‘Cool? Are you cold? I think it’s warm in here.’ And ‘Neat? The whole house is clean.’ (Pg. 81) as a way of showing the many intricate details “John” must adjust to and wonder about. Such things made this reader realize how our culture changes over time. Hugh Allen and “John” begin to read Mark Twain’s time travel novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and ponder the possibilities of time travel. H.G. Wells is mentioned, too. Even here, the history is accurate. Other time travel works not yet written in 1900 are mentioned only in other chapters set in later times.
Hugh and his friend Howard Longyear (both of whom are historical people in Marquette) invite “John” on a canoe trip with them to join their families at the Huron Mountain Club, thinking perhaps returning to the place where “John” was found will trigger some memories. But a storm crops up on Lake Superior; the canoe is overturned, and Hugh is drowned. “John” manages to pull Howard back into the canoe and get to shore. A few weeks later, “John” returns to Mount Huron with Howard and a guide. They examine a dolmen there, rocks set upon one another in a pillar of sorts—supposedly placed there by Vikings (runes on it) or some ancient people. There, he finds his cell phone, picks it up, remembers everything, touches the doleman, and vanishes from sight!
John, now knowing he is Neil, wakes up in a hospital, back in 2021 Marquette. But his family doesn’t exist! He runs from the hospital to find Marquette is very different: the ore dock is gone, the Longyear Mansion is still there. He has no money; his phone is all but dead, his two best friends think he’s crazy when he tells them of time travel. His friends are completely different in personality as well. Neil’s parents do not own their house and its owner threatens Neill. Neil goes to the Peter White Library to research this new version of Marquette, where he reads Tyler Tichelaar’s book, My Marquette. (This reviewer found it amusing that the author wrote himself into his own book, like Kurt Vonnegut in Breakfast of Champions.) Neill learns that he changed history when he saved Howard from drowning. Since Howard didn’t die with Hugh, his parents remained in Marquette, not dismantling their mansion to move it back to Massachusetts. Because of that, Neill’s great-great-grandparents never met, so the next generation was not born … Other time travel adventures, such as Back to the Future, with their many warnings not to change anything because that creates an alternate reality, come into Neill’s mind. He is determined to return to 1900 and somehow “fix” things so he can have the correct version of 2021 back. The “new” version of Neill’s friend Derek agrees to help him, driving to the Huron Mountain Club (Neill had been working there for the summer when he first touched the doleman).
Derek grabs Neill’s hand and is carried with him into a far-future version of Marquette, from which they must escape before managing to return to 1900 Marquette. How is Neill to explain to Howard that he was supposed to have died? What to do when the “new” version of Derek decides he’d rather stay in 1900? Plus, the “old” version of Neill’s friend Allison has come to 1900 and falls in love with Howard! Will Howard accept all this and help them find a way to return to Neill’s version of 2021 without him having to die? And will Howard have the courage to read his own future journal (which Neill “stole” from that far-future Marquette) to help them?
One of the best things about this novel is how time and history change all of us, even if we never travel through time. Each of Tichelaar’s characters changes in some way. Neill reflects on all this near the end of the novel, before he is even sure if he will ever see his own time again.
“Neill understood now that knowing more about the dates when his ancestors were born or where they came from or even their parents’ names were not the things that really mattered. What mattered was what he had inherited from them—and not the titles or castles, like the dream of being royal or connected famous people—but how he had inherited personality traits, beliefs, hopes, dreams, and mannerisms—those were his true inheritance that had make him part of a family chain—and God willing, someday he would help to continue it.” (pg. 379)
The complexities and problems of time travel continue to be explored by the author and his characters in what becomes a book most readers will not want to put down and will ponder long afterward. Book clubs will have an almost endless list of what-ifs and ethical situations to discuss. For those who have never read a time travel novel before, start with Odin’s Eye—it will make you think!
Odin’s Eye By Tyler Tichelaar
A Marquette Time Travel Novel
ISBN 979-8-9872692-1-3 Marquette Fiction.com 1202 Pine St., Marquette MI 49855, www.marquettefiction.com 2023, Ret. $24.95 paperback