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“…I became aware of the non-deterministic nature of the universe, and that the past is every bit as flexible as the future.”
I love well written time travel fiction; there is just something about it that tickles my brain in a way that is incredibly entertaining. I recently endured a five day reading slump and needed something to lift me out of it, and UnHappenings managed to bring me out of my existential crisis!
Meet Nigel, who since he was fourteen years old has been plagued by “unhappenings.” Conversations, friendships he had, relationships all retroactively were undone around him and he is the only one with the memory of the original timeline. After awhile he retreats from socialization to avoid negatively affecting those in his life.
“The only constant fact in my life had ever been that what is done is never, with any certainty, done.”
The narrator Nigel has a nuanced wit and tone which had me imagining him telling this story of his adventures through time-space with a sardonic grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. It turns out that the unhappenings that have plagued Nigel can be traced to one decision, and that they are a symptom of something much more nefarious. This book really makes the reader think about how different things can be with just one small shift; the concept of the butterfly effect in time travel fiction. Every action (or inaction) matters. Maybe not on a global scale, but certainly in your life. I can directly trace the point where the trajectory of my life completely diverged.
It is difficult to review this book without giving spoilers. What you need to know: Nigel becomes fascinated with time travel as a kid and wants to pursue it as an academic researcher, he is brought fifty two years into the future by his Future Self to perfect time travel technology, and while he is there he meets Helen. And then sh*t gets crazy.
I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed and it is fast-paced action. It gets science-y but not in an overly cumbersome way, and I like the different takes that Aubry has on paradox – it made for a refreshing read. I will admit that this time (third reading) I wasn’t overly sold on the ending so I changed my rating from 5 to 4 stars, but this is still an incredible and fun read.
potential spoiler: literary allusions
On my third reading of this book I realized the potential allusions to Helen of Troy and Agamemnon, and perhaps Helen and Carlton’s meeting in Paris was another homage to Greek mythology. After all… all of this pain, suffering, war, and apocalypses were because of Helen, who was so beautiful that Nigel couldn’t help but fall in love.
You can find information about my rating criteria here.