Books: Ahead to the Past

The Plato Papers imagines the view from the 3700s

Perhaps only true sci-fi fans can pick up a book and note, without yelping in protest, that it takes place in roughly A.D. 3705. Yet Peter Ackroyd's The Plato Papers (Doubleday; 173 pages; $19.95) offers just such a leap forward in time with almost no accompanying science or fiction, at least in the sense of narrative exposition and descriptions of characters and settings. So what is Ackroyd, a prolific British biographer and novelist (The Life of Thomas More, English Music), up to now?

The author himself subtitles his book A Prophesy, but the playfulness of the opening pages does not seem...

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