Chicago 1871
by James E. Merl

"'What if I told you something was gonna happen in a few days, and I know it because I’m from 147 years in the future?'"

John Kirk is a California firefighter who travels back in time after battling a blaze that goes dangerously awry. History comes alive before him as he begins working for the Chicago Fire Department armed with the knowledge of the future and with the certainty of the impending Great Chicago Fire. Kirk immerses himself completely in his new life but feels compelled to share what he knows about the future despite the disbelief he faces whenever he reveals a shocking detail from 2018. The tension escalates as the days move closer and closer to the historic fire of 1871, and Kirk must decide how much of the future he is willing to alter.

Merl has written a wholly original story with dramatic firefighting scenes rich with descriptive and emotional details. The author brilliantly captures the conflict that erupts when Kirk’s forward-thinking ideas from the future encounter the past. Views on race are explored as well as thought-provoking insights about progress, invention, and technology. Merl’s historical detail is impeccable, and he endows every scene with vivid authenticity. The firefighting equipment, city streets, and societal norms and values are portrayed as links to the future. The story expertly reveals how the past influences the future, especially with the evolution of fire safety and equipment as well as deeper elements like ancestry and family heritage.

At the heart of this sci-fi-infused historical thriller is a timeless tale of a heroic brotherhood and the power of family connection through the centuries. Merl jolts the reader from a traditional happy ending when Kirk is suddenly transported back to 2018. But with progress and invention always on the horizon, physics and quantum theory ultimately deliver a satisfying happily-ever-after feel.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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