In World Enough and Time, Harley Staggars has created a universe in which time is multi-dimensional, with a nearly infinite number of time streams branching out like the limbs of a tree, and each time stream carries its own unique reality. Those realities in time streams adjacent to one another will be nearly indistinguishable, but the farther apart they are the more different they will be. In fact, as one of the characters proposes, anything that can possibly happen can’t possibly not happen—somewhere in multi-dimensional time. Without resorting to obscure scientific language, the author manages to make it all seem quite plausible.

The story concerns adolescent lovers, torn apart by tragedy, to be reunited twenty years later by another tragedy, which renders them able to travel through time—forward into the future, back into the past, and sideways through divergent time streams to visit alternative realities. The novel remains light-hearted and humorous through what might have been rather dark episodes. As one of the characters remarks . . . well, that might be giving away too much.

Throughout the book, the author discusses such philosophical subjects as the creative process as it pertains to art, what constitutes humor, the deleterious effect of the Hays Commission on a young couple’s first kiss, the inter-relationship of knowledge and progress, and the importance of understanding the failings of others, as opposed to either pointing the finger of blame or forgiving.

There are rules to creative writing, but—as the saying goes—rules are made to be broken, and Harley Staggars breaks more than his share of them. To begin with, the introduction, by definition, should appear at the beginning to introduce the story. He has placed the introduction at the end, where he calls it a caudal appendage. At the beginning, where we would expect to find the introduction, he has written A Non-Introduction to explain why he put the introduction at the end. Perhaps most unconventionally, Chapter One, written in the past tense, ends in a climactic moment in 1972, while Chapters Two and Three, set in a bucolic 1952, are in the present tense. Chapter Four, back again in 1972, resumes in past tense. It would seem he has done this purposely to emphasize the immediacy of the 1952 experience, which is not simply a flash-back, but rather what one of the characters calls a traumatic regression.

Moreover, the narrator speaks in first person plural, which poses questions: Is this merely the editorial we? Or is it a device to invite the readers into the action, to make them participants in the story? Perhaps it indicates that the narrator is acting as the spokesman for a group, an alien race that is observing our world, or—as is hinted at one point—a species from the far distant future, into which humanity will someday evolve.

There are also several breaches of the fourth wall—If I may borrow that phrase from the world of the theater—such as when the reader is warned not to make any unnecessary noise that might break the concentration of the characters, while they travel sideways through time.

There is much more to be said about World Enough and Time, but perhaps I have revealed too much already. I will conclude by saying this little book is a pleasure to read, and it just may cause you to question things you have always taken for granted, most notably the nature of time.