REVIEW SUMMARY: A hugely fun and entertaining read.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The episodic tales of Roxanne Bonaventure, who receives a bracelet that allows her to travel through various timelines (time travel) and worldlines (parallel universes).
PROS: Immersive; page-turning; a quick read; skillfully written; lots of fun!
CONS: None that I could think of.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.
One of the things I most like about science fiction, aside from the sense of wonder, is thinking about the possibilities of the ideas presented. That’s why time travel is a favorite theme of mine. The possibility of changing the past, molding it to suit your needs, for better or worse, simply fascinates me. Time travel in science fiction is frequently mishandled, though – it’s often misused as a simple fish-out-of-water plot device to put some character in some future or past setting. That’s too easy and too boring. Better is when the nature of the time travel itself is highlighted, either through the head-on conflict of the paradox or through bending the rules of time travel, allowing a character to use it as a tool. That’s when I get to see the possibilities of what can be done and it’s what attracts me to sf in the first place.
Chris Roberson‘s Here, There & Everywhere takes the fascination of time travel one step further by mixing it with travel between parallel worlds. The result is an entrancing, immersive and wonderful book about possibilities. Do I also need to mention it’s a true page-turner?
The story concerns Roxanne Bonaventure, who receives a mysterious bracelet from a dying old woman. The device allows Roxanne to travel not only through time (as if that wouldn’t be enough) but across parallel worlds as well. This makes her quite unique as she can now travel to any possible world that was or will be. But it also keeps her feeling disconnected, cut-off from the rest of humanity. Although Roxanne uses the device for personal gain at first, she eventually comes to realize that she is searching for her place across the multiverse.
If you’re guessing, that the old woman who gives Roxanne the bracelet is an older version of Roxanne herself (ho-hum), you’re not alone. I did too. Thankfully, instead of insulting the reader by springing this “surprise” at the end of the book, Roberson had Roxanne openly suspecting as much early in the story. Nice touch. By noting it early on, whether it’s true or not is no longer an issue. That’s a great way to diffuse the “I know how this is gonna end” syndrome, freeing the reader to just sit back and enjoy.
And enjoy it I did! There were so many aspects of this book that I liked, I don’t even know where to begin. Hmmm…at the beginning I guess…
The book’s prelude centers on a 1995 press conference with the surviving Beatles and the research of a documentary filmmaker who notices that several photographs throughout the Beatles’ history contain the image of the same woman – always the same age and wearing the same clothes. Of course, knowing this is a book containing time travel, we know what’s going on. What we are surprised to learn is that this is also a book about travel between world lines.
This chapter was a great hook into the story, but it is only one episode. The book, in fact, is constructed as a series of episodes in Roxanne’s life and her use of the bracelet, a format that makes this a quick read. Given this episodic nature of the book’s construction, it is surprisingly a very cohesive story, yet one where each chapter can stand almost independently of the others.
And what a treat each chapter is; like a self-contained adventure in some past or (possible) future era. One Sherlock Holmes-like chapter featured Roxanne as the Watson to Sandford Blank, called upon to solve the mysterious disappearance of one Simon Travaille with the main suspect being H.G. Wells himself. Another chapter involved an alternate timeline with Chrono Police. Another involved Nazis seeking to gain mystical power among Egyptian ruins. And on and on.
Comparisons made on the back of the book (to Keith Laumer’s Worlds of the Imperium and John D. MacDonald’s The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything) are pretty accurate. I might add that it also reminded me at times of Replay by Kevin Grimwood, The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold and “3 RMS, Good View” by Karen Haber. Suffice it to say that if you liked any of these stories, then you’ll probably like this one too. Regardless of all these reminders of other stories, Here, There & Everywhere deftly manages to stay unique, thanks to the skillful writing.
Roberson’s writing style is engaging, light-hearted and fun. The book is infused with lots of pop-culture references, perhaps most notably the Beatles. (The chapters and the book itself are named after Beatles songs.) Characterizations are also well-done; Roxanne is a feisty, wisecracking, and ultimately very likable, protagonist. The writing often made me outwardly smirk and even occasionally laugh out loud. While the plot was captivating, well laid out and evenly paced, the writing made the story fun. This is a killer combination that makes for a hugely entertaining book.
It was interesting to me how Roxanne, a lonely character in the myriad of possibilities, used the bracelet. At first, she used it for personal gain, naturally. Over time, as she matured, her motives were more altruistic. Instead of using the bracelet as a simple doorway, it became a tool that she used to help others and, eventually, explore her own life. This is where the possibilities came to the fore. Need sleep? Just hop downstream a million years to enjoy a secluded rest on an unpopulated Earth then pop back home just seconds after you left! Want to hook up with that special someone? Just hop into a possible future, see what he likes, then hop back home and make a connection. I loved more and more the way Roxanne used the bracelet as the book progressed.
Speaking of which, the ending was also very well-done. It answered all the questions that came up throughout the story in a neat and logical bundle. And it left me smiling.
Here, There & Everywhere is a fun book that I highly recommend.