Joel Smith is a 21st Century kid on top of his game and about to graduate from college, when he decides to do some urban exploring in a mine in Montana. He finds himself in another time, months before the Pearl Harbor attack and nearly penniless, and without any kind of ID. He goes to his (future) hometown of Seattle looking for work, and there gets into more trouble: one of his new friends is his grandmother, and another is a woman who’s engaged, whom he falls in love with.
John A. Heldt’s The Mine has a strong sense of historical inevitability: Joel also meets someone whom he knows is going to die in the war whose death he can’t stop, and a Japanese-American woman whom he knows is going to be in an internment camp.
The Mine is a time travel story that defies expectations in odd ways. Joel Smith does indeed go back to the storied World War II era (complete with its era-appropriate references to Cary Grant and Benny Goodman) and befriends his own grandmother and has a woman fall in love with him, but one thing he is not is Marty McFly (for those of you unfamiliar, see Back to the Future). Heldt wisely tries to steer this book in its own direction: after briefly teasing at a time-traveling comedy in the Back to the Future vein, he instead makes the book a love story and character drama.
The romance in this book feels real, and all the damage Joel does to the past does sort of hurt. The end is maybe a bit rushed, long on emotional payoff and short on sense, but it does at least feel right. And whether or not, in the end, the reader can forgive the protagonist is also something they have to work out on their own.
The Mine is a mostly original time travel story, which is sort of a feat in of itself, but it’s also got great characters and a compelling story.
Reviewed by Charles Baker for IndieReader