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Three Days to Never by Tim Powers

Three Days to Never (2006)

by Tim Powers

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9163314,882 (3.62)30
When Einstein told Roosevelt in 1939 that the atomic bomb was possible, he did not tell the president about another discovery he had made, something so horrific it remained a secret--until now. When 12-year-old Daphne takes a videotape labeled Pee-wee's Big Adventure from her grandmother's house, neither she nor her college-professor father Frank has any idea that the theft has drawn the attention of both the Israeli Secret Service and an ancient European cabal of occultists--or that within hours they'll be visited by her long-lost grandfather, who is also desperate to get that tape. And when Daphne's teddy bear is stolen, a blind assassin nearly kills Frank, and a phantom begins to speak to her from a switched-off television set, they find themselves caught in the middle of a murderous power struggle that originated long ago in Israel and Germany but now crashes through Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.--From publisher description.… (more)
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This was more of a thriller than I usually enjoy. I was intrigued by the time travel element, but even though it pretends to be scientific by involving Einstein in its origin, it's pure mysticism. A decent story, but those looking for hard (or any) science will be disappointed. ( )
  chaosfox | Feb 22, 2019 |
I do love Tim Powers' writing. THREE DAYS TO NEVER marks me catching up completely, and finishing reading all of his novels, and they've all been brilliant in their own way. A couple haven't quite grabbed me as much as others, but this one has time travel, remote sensing, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and a great cast of characters tightly bound in an intricate plot. I was hooked from the start.

I've been away for two days in Powers' head,, held by his way of taking a weird idea, such as Einstien inventing a time machine, then filtering it through a world view that contains ghosts, ESP and all manner of psychic phenomena. Anybody who has read Powers in recent years knows all his tics and enthusiasms, and they're here in full, but this is tighter, more controlled than the frenzy of, say, Earthquake Weather, and all the better for it.

There are moments of briliance here too, in descriptions of how a blind woman can live by seeing through others' eyes, of swooping travels in the astral planes, and a climactic sequence as tense as any thriller.

But at heart, it's a story of a broken family, working together for each other against heavy odds, and it's often rather touching and tender. And funny too, with a comedic touch that's sometimes absent from Powers' books.

I'm sorry I took so long getting to this one.

It's another winner.

And I'm also sorry that there's no more new Powers books for me to read now. I'll be waiting impatiently for his next one. ( )
1 vote williemeikle | Dec 22, 2018 |
This was a good read - main characters you can believe in and care about, time-travel, telepathy, Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Mossad and a sinister group called the Vespers (descendants of the Albigenses, a French sect of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries).

I was never very clear about the motives of the Vespers, apart from the fact that they were clearly The Bad Guys because of the way they kept murdering people. It also wasn't obvious to me why Daphne ended up with the ability to destroy things at will, but it didn't affect my enjoyment of the story too much - I was perfectly willing to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride.

( )
  AJBraithwaite | Aug 14, 2017 |
Tim Powers has a formula. Start with actual history, and focus on parts of it where what we know trails off into mystery. Fill in the unknown with elements of the fantastic. Connect it all to the lives of his characters via a fast-paced story.

But that formula doesn't constrain any of the inventive, exciting stories Powers writes with it. In Three Days to Never, the principal historical mystery concerns Lieserl Marić, first child of Albert Einstein and his first wife Mileva Marić. Lieserl was born in 1902, before Einstein and Marić married. That she had ever existed was unknown to the world before the 1980s, and history does not record her true name or what became of her. The linked Wikipedia article states that most observers think she died in infancy.

Powers imagines a much longer, eventful life for her, ending in California in her old age, in 1987. We learn a lot about that life, but much remains unknown, as she appears only as her descendants knew her.

Frank Marrity knew Lieserl as his grandmother Lisa. He and his daughter Daphne find their lives - and much more - endangered by agents of secret organizations, who want the magical artifacts Lieserl guarded.

Powers mixes time travel, Jewish mysticism, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, family dysfunction, the Six-Day War, relativity, paranormal powers, the Holy Grail, the Cold War, and California's architecture and landscape into his fast-moving story.

I'm bothered a bit by Powers using one of the most significant scientists of the twentieth century as a sort of arch-mage. But, given how badly Einstein treated Mileva Marić, maybe that's only fair, somehow. ( )
3 vote dukedom_enough | Jun 8, 2016 |
Science Fiction, Secret History, Albert Einstein, California ( )
  Momochitl | May 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
The place is Greater Los Angeles, a neighborhood today, San Bernardino, Pasadena, Hollywood, Palm Springs. People arrive, or their predecessors did, so there are reflections, or repercussions, of Germany — Switzerland — Israel — and a ranging universe so vast and strange the characters think of it as a freeway to their local lives, or God.

The time is 1987: three days of it: hence the title — with a look at 1967 — the days of Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein — Pope Innocent III — Moses — and a man from 2006 who can’t stand the crude technology.

The actors are a preteen girl and her father who teaches literature — and her great-grandmother — and her uncle — and two teams trying to undo place, time, and action, one from the Israeli intelligence service, one vast and strange.

The focus of these forces keeps this story strong. Powers has set us at their nexus, holds us there. The careful painting of their operation, almost prosaic in the midst of poetry, almost mundane in the midst of the mystic, keeps this world weird. He makes it shock and shimmer. Its spine is his imagination. Its sinew is his understanding. He is unafraid of good or evil, of comedy or crime.
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For Chris and Teresa Arena

And with thanks to Assaf Asheri, Mike Backes, John Bierer, Jim Blaylock, Didi Chanoch, Russell Galen, Patricia Geary, Tom Gilchrist, Rani Graff, Julia Halperin, John Hertz, Jon Hodge, Varnum Honey, Pat Hough, Barry Levin, Brian and Cathy McCaleb, Karen Meisner, Denny Meyer, Eric Nylund, Aya Shacham, Dave Sandoval, Bill Schafer, Sunila Sen Gupta, David Silberstein, Kristine Sobrero, Ed Thomas, Vered Tochterman, Guy Weiner, Hagit Weiner, Naomi Weiner, Par Winzell, and Mike Yanovich.
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The ambulance came bobbing out of the Mercy Medical Center parking lot and swung south on Pine Street, its blue and red lights just winking dots in the bright noon sunshine and the siren echoing away into the cloudless blue vault of the sky. (prologue)
"It doesn't look burned."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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