Life II by Scott Spotson is a fascinating twist on the theories of time travel, Life II tracks the multiple lives of Max Thorning. At 42 years old, unhappily married, working in an unsatisfactory career, but with two children he adores, Max is not living the life he wanted to be living. But given the chance to bring his memories of his life back in time to any point in his life, Max discovers the consequences of knowing too much. Life II shows what happens when you are given a second chance in life, and it's not always as amazing as it seems.
This book got me really excited, as I love thinking about time travel and the theories of time, paradoxes, etc. It is a fantastical concept to write a book about. This alone drove me to read all 650 pages of Life II. And the plot is good, it really is. Sadly, this story was approached in a way that didn't really suit the themes that accompany such an emotionally and physically complex plot line. The dialogue felt very wooden, and inhuman. Ironically, some of the most organic dialogue came from the aliens, rather than the human beings.
Character development is always going to be difficult to write when a plot involves time travel, and reliving past experiences, and reading Life II gave me the distinct suspicion that the author was not entirely prepared to write about the main character, Max Thorning. Any emotional reactions that Max had in the book felt wooden, as if they had been copied and pasted directly from a speculative psychology textbook, and not from the author's understanding of their character.
It is my personal belief that the writer should always know their character as they would a spouse, or close friend. In order to write of the emotional experiences, thoughts, and actions of a real person, you have to understand that person's emotional experiences, thoughts, and actions. The same goes for fictional characters. Life II's description of Max Thorning felt very disconnected, and quite fictional. It was difficult to connect with the character, or even think of him as anything more than a character in a book.
That being said, I respect the author for approaching a story on such a massive scale. Over 26 years pass from the beginning of the novel to the end. Relationships form and are broken, choices are made, consequences are dealt with. It is enormously difficult to compress that much of a life (of multiple lives, in the context of the book) into written form, though, with the concise writing style used throughout Life II, I am surprised that it took 650 pages to do so. The result was a very readable book. Long, but readable. I do disagree with labling this book "science fiction," as the science fiction is only the set up for what is essentially a life, relived.