This multi-time science fiction novel begins in 1888, as the son of slaves in the Jim Crow South makes a daring escape to achieve his heart’s desire: a higher education at Tuskegee Institute. Simmie Johnson achieves his dream and more. Borrowing from Newton, Einstein and Tesla, he writes a paper outlining a theory of time travel, including plans for a time machine, the “Chronocar” of the title. He manages to have his paper published in a small black science journal.
In 2015, young Illinois Tech student Tony Carpenter finds the paper, figures out that the missing component of the Chronocar is a computer, and begins to build it. The first trip he wants to take is to 1919 Chicago, so he can tell the now mature Dr. Johnson that his idea works. While there he falls in love with Dr. Johnson’s daughter, Olivia. But when he tries to enjoy being a tourist in another century, he helps trip off a race riot. Every time he pushes back time to try and fix history, fate intervenes for the worse.
Mr. Bellinger sets up his premise well, and the characterization is solid. The consequences of not thinking actions through become heartbreaking. This time-bending, cautionary tale is by turns exciting, funny, and dark as it propels through time and tragedy.