"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Michael Burstein's review of "Loose Ends"

This is what happened the last time "Loose Ends" went on special sale, in December 2014.   As indicated in this little screenshot, the novella did quite well, and I thank everyone who downloaded it.

It's back on sale again, on the following schedule -

March 1, 12:00am - March 3, 8:00am  $0.99
March 3, 8:00am - March 5, 4:00pm $1.99
March 5, 4:00pm - March 8, 12:00am  $2.99

You can get it here.  And I thought, for those who might be interested, I would post Michael Burstein's Summer 1997 review of "Loose Ends" that appeared in Tangent magazine's SF by Starlight column.   Michael and I hadn't known each other all that long back then, but we went on to become good friends, and admirers of each other's writing, and Michael served as Secretary when I was President of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1999.   The review was never posted anywhere online, and Michael was good enough to send it to me just yesterday for its posting here.

SF by Starlight: Michael A. Burstein

"Loose Ends" by Paul Levinson (ANALOG, May 1997)
For my generation, the event is not the assasination of 
John F. Kennedy but the explosion of the *Challenger*; and the 
date is not November 22, 1963, but January 28, 1986.  I can 
remember exactly where I was when I heard the news: in my high 
school library, near the end of lunch.  I can still see my 
classmate Tina Sormani (now a professor of mathematics at Johns 
Hopkins) tell me the news; and I can still remember my face 
dripping with tears.
Paul Levinson has taken the brilliant step of combining the 
emotional impact of these two tragic American events into his 
excellent novella "Loose Ends."  Time traveler Jeff Harris comes 
from a miserable future, one in which the *Challenger* explosion 
has been identified as the pivotal event that made things go 
from bad to worse.  Sent back in time to prevent it, he finds 
himself instead in 1963, a day before the Kennedy assassination, 
too early to prevent the later tragedy and effectively too late 
to prevent the earlier one.  Trapped in the past, he carves out 
a life for himself as a professor of philosophy, wondering all 
the while how he can manage to complete his original mission.
Throughout the story, Levinson creates a nostalgic mood, 
one that even those of us born after the end of the sixties can 
appreciate.  Historical themes are developed through parallelism 
with the music of the time, especially that of the Beatles.  
Levinson answers the question of why the sixties were such a 
turbulent time by postulating that that time period became 
polluted with freethinkers from the future, who ended up 
affecting history in ways they never intended.  It all ties in 
with the Kennedy assassination.  It may be true that preventing 
the assassination of JFK has become a cliche' for time travel 
stories, but Levinson manages to make it fresh again, with an 
explanation that could almost be used to explain why so many 
people write time travel stories about Kennedy in the first 
But Levinson does much more.  He creates a love story set 
against an evocative portrait of New York City, all the while 
never losing track of the main themes of his novella.  Harris 
continues to regret his missed opportunity in Dallas, and 
wonders how he can complete his original mission while almost a 
quarter-century before the disaster he needs to avert.  His 
explorations of the past are wistful and charming, even when the 
story must face up to some of the horrors of the time.
Finally, Levinson ends the story with a logical surprise, 
and one that leaves the reader hopeful for the future.  The 
message for the reader is that one person can, in fact, make a 

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