Sunday, April 6, 2014

Popcorn, Potato Chips and John Heldt Time Travel Novels

What do they all have in common, popcorn, potato chips and John Heldt time-travel novels? To quote an old friend, "they're ever so 'more-ish'." As soon as you finish one, you want more.

The trio of novels in the Northwest Passage series share this light feel and "more-ish" savor.

A Montana mine is a portal to 1941.
The Mine kicks it off with a silly time travel gimmick: Young man stumbles into a mine in 2000, touches a glowing wall of rock, and is instantly transported to 1941. It's a ridiculous start to a very good story, with likeable characters and an intimate feel for history.

Joel Smith takes very little time to accommodate to his arrival in 1941 Montana, hopping a freight train for home (Seattle) and getting involved with several remarkable university students. (One of them is his grandmother.) The story then revolves around his status as a time traveler, with sports trivia knowledge that helps him accumulate gambling winnings, and darker knowledge of the coming world war - and he must choose whether he will share it or not.

Even more compelling: when he figures out that the passage back to 2000 might reopen, he must decide whether to return, abandoning the new life he has built in 1941, his new friends, and his love, Grace.

I almost didn't buy this book, but once I began reading it, I was glad I had. In fact, I immediately went online and purchased the next in the Northwest Passage series, The Show.

Another time portal in a Seattle theater.
In the next book of the series, The Show (labeled on Amazon as Northwest Passage 3), I learn how Grace managed to stay with Joel and travel from 1941 to 2000. Grace also must cope with her own diversion in time, when the now-mother of twins and happy wife of Joel Smith walks into the restroom of a newly-rebuilt theater in 2002 and emerges - alone - in 1918 Seattle.

For Grace, the need to return to 2002 is urgent. She knows the theater in which the time portal rests will be completely destroyed by fire in a few short months. If she cannot find the combination that triggers the portal before then, she'll be stuck in 1918. 

I also found fascinating the woman's different handling of her bleak knowledge of the future. Unlike her husband when he traveled to the past, Grace finds reason to inform those she knows will suffer in the coming months.

And it appears that there are time portals all over the northwest, hence the third in the series, The Journey, which involves a portal in a mansion in Oregon.

New travelers find an Oregon portal.
The final book in the trilogy, The Journey provides a passage from 2010 Oregon to a second chance at love and fulfillment in 1979 for a wealthy widow. This book is labeled Northwest Passage 2, even though in every way except publishing date, it is clearly the third in the series. 

The main difference between the first two novels and the third is that the 48-year-old widow Michelle Preston Richardson has the opportunity to nurture and guide her teen-aged self and the friends from her own childhood, to make better choices than they originally did. Her mature perspective also opens Michelle to more possibilities for a richer life than wealth can provide.

The climax of the story, as with the other two, comes when she must choose how (or whether) to return. 

Each of the novels was enjoyable on its own, but The Mine and The Show really support each other with main characters in common, in a way that The Journey does not. Its main connection to the first two is the "Northwest Passage" of the time portal location. But read separately or as a trilogy, all three are very enjoyable, light reading.