Meg Murry-O'Keefe, married to Calvin (no surprise) and expecting her first child, is home with the rest of the Murrys for Thanksgiving. Calvin is away in London giving a groundbreaking paper to a major conference, and so isn't present when Meg's father gets a disturbing call from the President of the United States.
Mad Dog Branzillo, the military dictator of a South American republic is doing more than sabre-rattling with his nuclear weapons, and the President is not hopeful about the prospects for avoiding all-out nuclear war. The world could well end within twenty-four hours unless this very unreasonable despot is made to see reason.
Calvin's mother unexpectedly provides the family with a clue, however. It seems that Branzillo may be a very distant relation of the family. Fifteen year old Charles Wallace pounces on this very small hope and, with the help of a unicorn named Gaudior, goes backward in time and experiences the joys and sorrows of the O'Keefe's ancient ancestors through their eyes.
The story of the extensive family that eventually produces the insane Branzillo is explored, and Charles Wallace tries to subtly alter the 'might have beens' in the hopes of bringing about a better present. Can he do it? He has the help of Gaudior, and Meg Murry provides moral support via kythe, but opposing Charles Wallace are the Echthroi, who would be quite happy to see the Earth vanish in a mass of mushroom clouds.
A Swiftly Tilting Planet has its foot in both the Time Quartet and the O'Keefe family series of novels, and not just because Meg is pregnant with Polyhymnia O'Keefe. On the Time Quartet side, it features Charles Wallace travelling back through time in order to save the world. On the O'Keefe family side, we are presented with a far more complex story about human interrelationships.
This report prepared by Dune
'A Swiftly Tilting Planet', published in 1978, is the third in the Time Quartet series by Madeleine L'Engle; the first book being the Newbury Medal winning 'A Wrinkle in Time'. The gifted and powerful Charles Wallace is now fifteen, and a seasoned time and space traveller. All his determination, insight, and psionic talent is required to survive this quest. Meg, his older sister, is now married and expecting her first baby, but even so she plays a large part in the battle as she communicates with him from our space-time frame. Charles rides into his campaign of counter-espionage on the unicorn, who has been assigned from his own planet, which is also involved in the war against the malignant Ecththroi. Their aim, maturing over thousands of earth years, is to ruin mankind by diverting earth history into a Projection of their own malign design. He rides into times past to do whatever act of good, small or great, which will heal the lives of his ancestors in New England. Charles' friends have Welsh-American Indian ancestors and their genes will either produce El Rabioso - the infamous mad dog South American dictator - or not. How far must he go to make the good version of the ancient prophecy come true? If you enjoyed any of The Hobbit, The Narnia Chronicles, Alan Garner, or Harry Potter you will enjoy the Time Quartet. The runes, the myths, and the histories of Wales, Ireland, the American Indians, New England, and Patagonia intertwine in this whirlwind adventure, which cries out to be made into a film of record-breaking proportions by the next Spielberg.
Madeleine L'Engle lives and works in New York City.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose