Book Review : Michael Landweber - Thursday, 1:17 PM (2016)
"If you were granted one superpower, which one would it be and why?" slowly became the most hackneyed conversation started since Hollywood decided cashing-in on comic books fifteen years ago. It didn't happen overnight, but people have drained this seemingly hip and clever question from all its meaning at the same pace big productions have drained superheroes of their purpose. One of the most popular answers to this question is : having the ability to stop time at will. Novelist Michael Landweber came up with a fresh and unexpected twist to this stale pop culture conundrum last year in his novel Thursday, 1:17 PM: what if stopping time wasn't a superpower? What if it was just something that happened to you? Pretty fucking cool, right? Thursday, 1:17 PM is kind of cool, but only kind of.
Bear with me.
So, Thursday, 1:17 PM is the story of a teenager nicknamed Duck who's caught in a bizarre time warp moments after his mother dies. The whole world just freezes. No reason given. No reason inferred. It just happens. Duck could go bananas in this netherworld, but he doesn't. He decides to explore and investigate this strange geophysical occurrence and attempts to draw meaning from his experience. But is Duck the best possible person to lead us through this unintelligible maze or is he simply a part of it? Is Thursday, 1:17 PM a Lindelof-esque supernatural mystery or is it something completely different? Well, in good Lindelof-esque fashion, it will make you work for your answers.
If you enjoyed television series Lost like I did, this one will pull your heart strings. Duck is put into a situation he has no control or understanding of whatsoever, like J.J Abrams and Damian Lindelof's characters on the island, so the only course of action for him is to become a different person. Duck is forced to reevaluate everything he knows about the world on a geophysical level and discovers himself a resilient deadpan sense of humor and a scientific interest for a situation that would've terrified other teenagers. His character development and his adult traits emerging in time of need are Thursday, 1:17 PM's calling card. The novel's inexplicable setting is just a mean to confront the protagonist to himself, really. Which is both good and bad in this context.
Thursday, 1:17 PM is influenced by Lost, but it's also a lot simpler. It doesn't have a convoluted plot featuring a timeless, magic island, immortal beings and atomic bombs that could've been published in a 1960s men's adventure magazine. Author Michael Landweber doesn't even try to go there. The supernatural setting of Thursday, 1:17 PM is meant to serve a disarmingly simple and heartbreaking allegory. Time stops when Duck's mother dies of cancer and his quest in the frozen world will be to find someone to care for. The frozen world is an allegory for adulthood hitting a young man who's not ready for it. When his mother dies (he already lost his father to mental health issues), Duck experiences a moment of terrifying existential freedom. He could literally do anything: go on a murdering spree or become a positive force in the world and Thursday, 1:17 PM is the story of that choice.
I kind of liked Thursday, 1:17 PM's existential parable. The setting is the absolute bomb, but Michael Landweber delivers it in an idiosyncratic manner through Duck's experience, which I thought stunted the possibilities. I loved the idea, but wanted the novel to surrender itself to it, which it never really does. And it's tough to blame Landweber for this. He stuck to his gun and wrote a cohesive supernatural coming of age, which I believe it's what he wanted to do all along. It's a good novel. If you're into coming of ages, it's some of the most fun and original material I've read in recent years (I'm not really into that genre, though), but don't get carried away with the premise like I've been. You'll be a little disappointed if you do. Enjoying Thursday, 1:17 PM is a matter of having the right expectations and I believe this review will help getting your mind right.