UnHappenings by Edward Aubry
About the Book
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press | Release Date: January 8, 2015 | Pages: 370
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction, Time Travel | Format: eBook | Source: Purchased
Several years later, when Nigel is visited by two people from his future, he hopes they can explain why the past keeps rewriting itself around him. But the enigmatic young guide shares very little, and the haggard, incoherent, elderly version of himself is even less reliable. His search for answers takes him fifty-two years forward in time, where he finds himself stranded and alone.
And then he meets Helen.
Brilliant, hilarious and beautiful, she captivates him. But Nigel’s relationships always unhappen, and if they get close it could be fatal for her. Worse, according to the young guide, just by entering Helen’s life, Nigel has already set into motion events that will have catastrophic consequences. In his efforts to reverse this, and to find a way to remain with Helen, he discovers the disturbing truth about the unhappenings, and the role he and his future self have played all along.
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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!
“…I became aware of the non-deterministic nature of the universe, and that the past is every bit as flexible as the future.”
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 a while, 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 a 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.