(I would actually rate this a strong 3.5 stars if possible.)
Wilson loves to play around with time travel and time paradoxes and A Bridge of Years is one of his earliest efforts, originally published in 1991.
In a few superficial ways it is reminiscent in structure to King’s 11/22/63 (though it’s important to note King’s novel came out 20 years later) in that a young man travels back to the early 60s and then pretty much falls in love with the era (and a woman) and wants to stay there. The specifics of Wilson’s story have a much stronger science fiction flavor than King’s, though Wilson doesn’t go into great detail on how the time travel and other future tech works.
Because it’s time travel there are complications.
I found the protagonist Tom Winter, a 30 year old man coming out of a failed relationship and lost job as rather curious–there is a setup for the inevitable character arc of him finding himself, but that never exactly happens. He learns things about himself, but by the end he has only a vague plan for moving forward (without spoilers–I won’t say where he is at story’s end). In a way it’s anticlimactic, but at the same time I rather liked that it bucked convention, even if it is less viscerally satisfying overall.
The realtor character of Doug “I want to believe in weird shit but have never really seen anything” Archer is entertaining, and serves as a reliable foil to the more conservative Tom.
The purported villain of the piece is another young man named Billy, a soldier thrust from the future into the past and equipped with golden armor that makes him virtually indestructible and fills him with an insatiable appetite to kill. This is easily the most chilling aspect of the story, taking the common concept of fusing a person to machinery not just to augment and enhance their abilities, but to chemically change them to absolutely need to kill. I have no difficulty imagining future governments creating these kinds of soldiers if the technology existed.
Less impressive is how quickly everyone jumps into bed together. I guess causal sex is timeless. :P
Also, unlike King’s million-page behemoth, A Bridge of Years feels a bit too short, leaving the whole 1962 part of the story feeling a bit underdeveloped. We are shown (and told) how Tom comes to want to stay in the past, but it never feels overly convincing. His erstwhile 1962 girlfriend Joyce offers a more nuanced take on the era (obviously having a better feel for living in it), but even she never gets more than sketches.
Still, the sketches are effective and while the ride is short, I did enjoy it. Wilson doesn’t bog down the story with a lot of explanations about how the time travel works, and this is for the best. He lays down a few rules early on, then uses them to buttress the rest of the story.
If you like a good time travel yarn and don’t want to get bogged down in an epic-length adventure, A Bridge of Years is a solid entry in the crowded field of time travel novels.