Title: The Man Who Lived Backwards and Other Stories
Author: Hall, Charles F
Published: Michigan: Nodens Books, 2017
Length: short story collection
ISBN: 9781976499418
Keywords: conman, timetravel
Review by: Don Kuenz

"The Man Who Lived Backwards"

Synopsis

Nicolai Rostof teaches physics and chemistry at the Gayling Grammar School. One Tuesday afternoon his students watch him suddenly disappear mid-sentence during a lecture. At precisely the same instant a gardener approximately a mile and a half away sees Rostof suddenly re-appear in the nude. That's how Rostof's two day trip through time ends.

In his original time-line Rostof completes his lecture without incident and two days later, on Thursday night, he's alone in a lab. An electrical storm causes unfortunate accident that reverses the time arrow of the world around him while it leaves his own biological clock alone, ticking forward in time as always. For each second of biological time forward, the world around him recedes one more second into his past.

Rostof discovers that the objects that surround him are immovable because the past can not be changed. He soon finds himself dying of thirst and hunger. He must dodge rain drops and other air borne objects such as birds, bees, and cats, lest they bore, ever so slowly, right through him.

Review

Although it may seem that Rostof can not respire the molecules necessary to sustain life, it turns out that only objects are frozen in the past. The Oxford Dictionary defines an object as "a material thing that can be seen and touched." Presumably objects are seen with the naked eye and tactilely touched. Neither sensation is possible with molecules, which are matter waves.

"The Premonition" episode of the original Outer Limits also features objects that move so slow that they become virtually frozen in time, from the perspective of a couple of time travelers. In that episode a pilot and his X-15 jump a few hours into the future along with his wife and her car. Although objects in both the X-15 and the car are movable everything else in the world is frozen in time.

"The Time-Drug"

Synopsis

Professor Mihailoff Stadtland, "Stat" to his friends, uses a drug, in conjunction with short-wave, radiated EMF oscillations, to send his mind back into the past. Although his physical body stays put in the present, his disembodied mind travels back in time to visualize past events from the vantage point of his chair. The chair itself doesn't go back into time. Only his incorporeal mind travels back to the past. But it remains tethered to the exact spot where his cranium's located in the present time.

An illustration of Stat using his apparatus appears at top, right of this review. The EMF oscillator's umbrella-like antenna is shown attached to the back of Stat's chair above his left shoulder.

Review

This story pays homage to "The New Accelerator" (Wells). In the Wells the time traveler injects a hypophosphite preparation to stimulate his nervous system. The traveler then moves about at an accelerated pace while everything else in the the world appears almost stationary. (The world actually moves at a much slower pace.)

"The Time-Drug" concocts a solution in which anhalonium and ava form the chief constituents. "Stat" takes Wells' new accelerator to the limit, then beyond. If you inject enough accelerator the unaccelerated world around you comes to a halt. With a little more accelerator the unaccelerated world goes backwards in time, faster and faster as even more accelerator's injected.

"Paid without Protest"

Synopsis

Mr Marcus Voronezh, a dapper, portly man, peddles his services as a "Financial Adviser" from his finely appointed office suite. His talents are: "moneylender, bucket-shop keeper, patents exploiter, bubble company promoter, small time swindler, confidence man, and graft merchant." He ruthlessly ripoffs widows and others for profit.

One day Voronezh receives a phone call from an inventor who needs financial backing to market a device that enables its user, the caller, to see the party at the other end of the phone connection. (This story was written in 1938, well before the advent of Skype and similar visual communication technologies.)

During the call the inventor proves that he can see Voronezh, even though Voronezh's phone is quite ordinary and lacks a camera. It seems too good to be true, but is it?

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© 2018 Don Kuenz