Note: I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.
I have always been a sucker for time-travel novels. I guess it’s my love for history, and my closet-wish to observe and understand history as it happened. So when E. M. Brown’s novel Buying Time came up on NetGalley I couldn’t resist.
Buying Time is about Ed Richie, a screenwriter in the UK. He is a womanizer, and can’t even remember all the women who have lived with him these past decades. His latest girlfriend walks out after another big fight and he goes to the pub with his friend, a more successful screenwriter, Digby. When he wakes up the next day things are strange. Stranger than if he’d had a normal hangover. The weather is different. His clothes are not on the floor. And some things in his house have changed. After some confusion he finally figures out he’s jumped a couple of years back in time. He explains this to Digby (a younger Digby), but soon “jumps” again, even further back in time.
In the 2030’s, journalist Ella Croft is taking a month off to work on the biography of screenwriter turned novelist Ed Richie, who disappeared without a trace in 2025. For this biography she has to travel to England (from independent Scotland), a country dangerous for her now that LGBTQ people are openly prosecuted. Through her research she uncovers what happened to Ed Richie, which is something that has an impact on her future and past too.
This book proved to me that my love for time travel stories isn’t always a good thing. I wanted so much more from this story than what I got.
My main issues are twofold. Firstly I have issues with the time travel mechanism of Ed Richie appearing in his own body/mind a couple of years before the now. It starts out as a good concept, and even the methodology behind it I can get into, but in the end Brown doesn’t really carry it forward. It’s like he lost interest (or never had it in the first place) in the time travel aspect, and turned to the emotional aspect of the story.
I also did not like Brown’s description of the future in the parts about Ella. Without giving too much away, Brown is no fan of Trump and UK First, and takes the current political and social climate in mainly the US, UK and Scotland to the extreme. I’m not saying one shouldn’t write about this, or even that this conclusion is so unrealistic to be laughable, but it did not fit in this story. We have a story about time travel, about love, about fixing past mistakes, and as a misplaced bonus we get a dystopian future that really does not influence the story at all. Nothing that happens in this dystopia affects the main characters, nor changes what happens in the story.
What’s left is a story about what you would do if you have a chance to do parts of your life over, and how much past actions and associated guilt will affect your future. Nice, but I expected something more. It therefore gets three out of five stars.