Stephen Fry novel that's almost sci-fi-ish. The story is about a young History PhD candidate at Oxford studying Hitler's youth who meets up with a wacky physicist who has devised a way to see into the past. Naturally, the protagonist sees this as a great way to enhance his research. The physicist is a holocaust survivor, and in a fit of despair after breaking up with his girlfriend, the historian agrees to help the physicist with his plan to prevent Hitler from ever being born.

I know, it sounds like an incredibly contrived plot for something that purports to be regular (ie, non science fiction) novel. But Fry is an entertaining writer, and pulls this all off elegantly. Suspension of disbelief is no problem, even when they succeed at erasing Hitler by chemically sterilizing his father and completely change history.

The result is that the protagonist wakes up in an entirely different world where the absence of Hitler in Nazi Germany tipped the balance of power towards the Axis powers instead of away from it.

I found this less entertaining than Fry's other books, the Hippopotamus and the Liar, but still a great read.

Making History, first published in 1996, is a book written by Stephen Fry (www.stephenfry.com), and is essentially a long and thorough answer to the question If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?.

The book is a piece of fiction writing, 600-odd pages long, and is an unusual novel indeed. It interweaves a set of stories: A young history student's doctoral thesis, a historical account from the trenches of the first world war, and the main story-line, set partially in New Jersey, and partially in Cambridge, England.

In Making History, Fry explores the implications of time travel in a surprisingly non-science-fiction type way: Whereas most time-travel stories require a significant amount of suspending disbelief, Making History is a far simpler story.

Making History is the account of Michael Young, the above-mentioned history student, who meets up with a physics professor who bears a white-hot hatred for everything related to the Nazi party. Throughout the story, it becomes clear that the professor's father was in Auschwitz - his greatest wish is to rewrite history, to make sure that Adolf Hitler is never born. Young - who slowly grows to realise that a historian may come in quite handy when attempting to re-write history - joins the team, and together they modify a machine (invented by the professor, designed to be able to observe the past), into a time machine.

The story flows easily, occasionally (disobedient to the normal format of novels of this type) in film-script format, more frequently in the more familiar third person narrative. For people who are familiar with Fry's other work - in particular his somewhat heteroclite sense of humour - the book will carry no great surprises.

Making History is well-written, with a few Ian Banks-esque twists in the plot, captivating dialogue, some stimulating thoughts on time travel. There are many better books in circulation, and while this one has its moments, it wouldn't be at the top of my recommendations list. It is, however, worth picking up for a few giggles and to kill a few hours on a long flight, or curled up trying to will a cold winter day to pass by.

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