The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom
Synopsis: A crappy parable about the folly of measuring time.
Book Review: This book is stupid. It is stupid on multiple levels. The most obvious level is the prose. The Time Keeper is written at a second grade level. It was literally like reading “See Spot Run” for 100 pages. I was actually insulted.
It is also stupid in its inability to think about the consequences of its world. One of the protagonists (Dor) is literally the man who invents the concept of numbers. He invents counting. However the world he inhabits is not one of cavemen or hunter-gatherers. Here are things that existed in his world BEFORE THE CONCEPT OF NUMBERS:
Refined Silver and gold
Wool Robes and Purple Dye
Cities and Kingdoms
After Dor creates the first sundial (which he calls a “sun-stick”), his stick is stolen by a villain, and now the villain has the ability to tell time. This is also stupid. It’s as bad as the famous Detached Dematerialization Lever. The thing that prevented the villain from telling time before was not that he didn’t have access to sticks! Stealing the stick doesn’t give him the insight needed to understand “counting” and “measuring time.” Unless you are in a Mitch Albom novel, I guess.
The theme is stupid as well. The book frowns upon the concept of measuring time. In Albom’s words:
“Man alone chimes the hour.
And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.
A fear of time running out.”
He lists some examples of all the sorrow that time running out brings. This list includes “A horseman riding to beat the sunset.” “A farmer fighting a late harvest.” “A mechanic…with impatient customers waiting.” Excuse me? NONE of those are due to the sin of measuring time! In what world does the fact that man has invented clocks change how desperate the horseman is to beat the sunset, or how desperate the farmer is to get in his late harvest? What the hell is Albom complaining about? How would these situations be different if mankind never learned how to measure time? Albom doesn’t bother to think about anything he’s saying or writing, he just emotes about sucky things that are time-dependent and implies that the fault is with man’s knowledge of the passing of time.
The worst part about this book is that it fails even in the stupid goal it had. Albom tries to Pretend To Be Wise, which would be eye-rollingly annoying by itself. But he can’t even get that right, because he doesn’t understand the pabulum he’s trying to regurgitate. He’s probably trying to tell people to live in the moment and not stress about man’s fleeting nature. That’s always good for a round of sagely nodding, and maybe a few declarations of profundity. But since he’s doesn’t think through anything, all he has are vague emotional tremblings of badness when he considers the marking out of how much time has passed/is left. So he blames this ON CLOCKS, and writes a whole book that consists of “Boo clocks!!” It’s asinine.
Book Club Review: There’s nothing here. At best you can spend a bit of time pinning down what exactly was at the core of the stupidity. But it seems weird to spend more time thinking about this novel’s theme than its author ever did. Not Recommended.
I now want to read this book because my brain is in denial going “it can’t be that bad, can it? Surely he’s exaggerating”. I’ll try to avoid the temptation, because I believe it is that bad even if I can’t alieve it without seeing it.
It really is bad, but it also reads VERY quickly, due to the second-grade writing level. I finished it in a few hours without scanning, and I’m not a fast reader. If you have the extra money and you want to check it out for yourself, it won’t be a big time investment. :)
It did have some good parts. I felt bad for the bullied girl, so that worked. Although the emotions I felt weren’t even 1/10th as intense as those in the opening chapters of Worm. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-represented cryonics was. The author actually took time to do research, interviewed people from CI(!), and handled the whole thing honestly and respectfully. It was the best handling of cryo I’ve seen in pop-fiction since… ever. So that was nice.
Overall though, man… /shakeshead