Stephen Fry, one of the halves of the utterly comic "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" team, has written several books in recent years. "The Liar" was brilliantly funny but I didn't like the male prostitution angle in the second half; "The Hippopotamus" was a neatly woven and fiendishly funny detective story of sorts. Never read "Paperweight", but I may some day.

"Making History" has the neatly woven storyline - not unlike a Jigsaw puzzle - in common with "The Hippopotamus", but now it's moulded into a time-travel thriller (I hate to use words straight off the sleeve reviews, but that's just what it is, a time-travel thriller) that's also well-structured linguistically . The story revolves around history almost-graduate Michael Young who bumps into phycisist Leo Zuckermann. The former is a specialst - if somewhat of a speculative one - on the younger years of Adolf Hitler, and the latter a man obsessed by the greatest genocidist of the century. Zuckermann has also invented a machine through which rough thermal images of any date in the past can be received (residual energy or something). Michael Young, once shown the machine, figures that, since the machine can receive these images, maybe it could also transmit them? Thus they undertake the daring idea to transmit a vial of infertility liquid into the well from which the Hitler household gets its water, in Brunau, Austria, late last century. They figure that will cause Adolf Hitler never to be born, and the world's greatest genocide, the horrors of World War II, never to happen...

Of course, that's not quite how it turns out. Making history is not the easiest of tasks, and Michael finds himself in a world that is When he discovers the horrible truth he has to try his damndest to get things back to the way they used to be.

Except for just making me think - isn't this what literature is supposed to do? - it also left me with one all-encompassing question: Has there ever been a band called Oily-Moily?

Released 1996, ISBN 0-099-464810



Written September 1998


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