The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 16.0°F | Fair

Book Review: Tempus Fugit Never Reaches Potential

Founding Fathers Novel Doesn...t Fly

By Jillian Berry

Tempus Fugit

By: Lawrence Lee Rowe

Published by: MDR Press

Tempus Fugit (Time Flies), by Lawrence Lee Rowe, explores the question, “What would the founding fathers do if they lived today?” The novel begins with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, each showing up with $100,000 in contemporary South Dakota – right in front of Mount Rushmore. The founding fathers quickly discover they have been transported (from different times) to the future. While they realize they are famous and could make their presence known to the world, these three august figures decide instead to learn about modern America to determine if their dreams have been realized. Thus Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson commence on an expedition to gather as much knowledge as possible about the fledgling country they left behind two centuries ago.

The idea for Tempus Fugit is an interesting one, and one that many people (including myself) have probably pondered. In contemporary culture, politics has lost much of people’s respect through the corruption and scandal that have plagued it in last half century. Thus, the question arises, if the founding fathers were brought to the future, would they still be considered great men? Or would what they become they be just … well … politicians?

While the concept for the novel is a good one, the actual work falls short of expectations. First off, there is the issue of language. The author cannot seem to decide whether the founding fathers should speak as they would in their time or in ours. Often, certain words from the past (ie: notes for money) are used, but in general the characters just sound like modern men, albeit a bit stiff and formal. In addition, the work brings up many historical events which often do nothing to further the plot or character development. Although some of these events are interesting, they nevertheless give the novel the feeling of a textbook. Luckily, both these flaws become less noticeable as the work progresses, and the characters become more realistic in their words and actions.

The lack of plot development is also disappointing. Most of the novel is spent watching the founding fathers discover and grasp all of the technologies and rituals of the modern world. As the story only covers a few days, there is little action. And perhaps as result of the author’s plans to write at least one sequel, the end of this book leaves you feeling abandoned.

On the bright side, the second half of Tempus Fugit is much more engaging than the first, and at the end, you begin to realize why the founding fathers were brought to the future. This question lingers throughout the book, making the abrupt cliffhanger ending doubly unsatisfying.

While there are certainly flaws, the novel as a whole is not without merit. Once you get into it, you begin to see the founding fathers as real men, rather than as larger-than-life icons carved into a mountain and pictured on our currency. In particular, you learn that Washington was a great general (obviously), but with perhaps more brawn than brains. In addition, you discover that Jefferson and Washington had a falling out a few years before Washington passed away, and you witness Jefferson’s constant internal struggles with confidence and hypocrisy.

Tempus Fugit is an interesting novel that fails to live up to its amazing potential.