What if They Knew by T R Hendrick

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What if They Knew by T R Hendrick

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Interesting novel, combining time travel with the history of the United States and a prescription for its current state. Imaginative, interesting and plenty of polemic!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 518 Date: January 2020
Publisher: What if They Knew LLC
ISBN: 978-1734277210

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It's 2025. Underneath a lodge in the Blue Mountain resort in Pennsylvania, is a secret facility. Here, Dr Benton and his team are making some critical scientific advances on behalf of the Benefactor, their anonymous funder. Already, the team have succeeded in teleporting small primates from one place to another. But, unbeknownst to the Benefactor, Dr Benton has also coded for another type of teleportation altogether - travel through time. And he's ready to test. If successful, Benton has a very specific use for his technology in mind.

Aghast at the current condition of the United States and at how far he feels it has travelled from the intention of its founders, Benton intends to send his team back in time to 1787 and the Constitutional Convention, and persuade several of the Founding Fathers to return with them for an education in the subsequent history of the country. Benton hopes that these wise men will then return to their own time, equipped with the knowledge and understanding to improve the founding documents and avoid the pitfalls of the future.

And his team are successful! James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Roger Sherman, John Dickinson and Gourverneur Morris are all persuaded to receive the hindsight of 2025. But what will they think of the history of the country they founded? And will they be successful when they return?

This is a fascinating story. Imaginative and interesting with lots and lots of information to take in, from history, through economics, to  technology, and scientific advances. But it's saved from dryness by the characters, both modern and historical, who rise from the pages in a very vivid way. The narrative flows well and individual quirks of character add to enjoyment. And there's a thread of tension too - what will Dr Benton's mysterious Benefactor do when he becomes aware of the full extent of his protege's work? Because it can't be hidden from him forever.

I particularly appreciated the inclusion of the original founding documents at the end of the novel. the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution and its Amendments and the Gettysburg Address are all given in full and are seem to have been provided with fresh vigour by Hendrick's examination of the intents of their authors.

It's not perfect. A stronger proofing would eliminate some errors - hear, hear not here, here, out of sight not out of site and borders not boarders, for example. And the time travel section could have been more subtle, I think. From the moment the Founding Fathers arrive in the twenty-first century, the lessons they are given by Dr Benton and his team read as polemic. I think Hendrick could have played his cards closer to his chest for a while and been both more successful at drawing in undecided readers and creating some narrative tension. Instead, he rather played to the gallery. Not that there's anything wrong with playing to the gallery, if that's your purpose!

But these are nitpicks. For British readers in particular, What if They Knew provides a full-throated, salty, polemical and, above all, passionate advancement of the US conservative case for what's best for its nation, rooted in its founding history. Individual freedom,personal responsibility, small government, patriotism - it's all here. And it asks the question: did the Founding Fathers get it right? Could it all have been different had they been given the gift of foresight?

That one, you'll have to decide for yourselves.

In the interests of balance, you might like to look at The American Future: A History by Simon Schama!

You can read more about T R Hendrick here.

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Buy What if They Knew by T R Hendrick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy What if They Knew by T R Hendrick at Amazon.com.

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