And another one gets added to Moogie’s personal library.
The thing is…
I’m not sure how I feel about it exactly.
Synopsis: “When Nigel Walden is fourteen, the unhappenings begin. His first girlfriend disappears the day after their first kiss with no indication she ever existed. This retroactive change is the first of many only he seems to notice.”
That is a part of the long synopsis on the back of the book. It was enough to get me to buy it hook, line, and sinker. Essentially its about a guy who lives an inconsistent life, and he doesn’t know why. These inconsistencies? Only he notices them, and experiences them. Only he knows what is supposed to be happening on his original time line.
The book follows his life… well about 90% of it anyway, on one timeline of the several that we are shown throughout the chapters from beginning to end, as he deals with the inconsistencies, and the things he learns about them, and how to deal with them. It also follows a woman whose name he doesn’t exactly know until about halfway through the book, and another woman he meets named Helen.
This isn’t very much like other books i’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed. This author doesn’t really get into rich detail the way some of my favorites do, but i’ve noticed that when it comes to fantasy vs Scifi, that is what tends to happen (at least with books I pick up). The details are bare, and minimal enough to be able to give you a general idea, but you have to paint that picture yourself using minute details. I would love to see how Nigel’s house (in the future) looks inside the minds of other people, since we never got a full description. In my mind it’s a large house, with an almost entirely wooden and brown colored interior. A very subdued woodsy kind of vibe, despite there being junk everywhere from his experiments and studies. I imagine the whole ground floor being open and visible (save for the bathrooms and such) possibly because that is how I imagine him to be. Maybe my vision is completely wrong, but the lack of detail kind of forces you to come up with your own idea of things. I like that about this book, but at the same time, when i’m tired and I just want to get lost in the pages, the scenery ends up being very…. bland. Like a blank page. It kind of ruins it a tiny bit.
However, the story itself has so many layers that are so well stitched together and executed, that even during those blank page moments, you kind of just run with it. You make it work, for the sake of pushing forward. There were some nights where I fell asleep with the book in my hands (or later on, headphones in my ears) because I just had to know where this train of thought was going, or whether or not this HUGE thing that just happened, would unhappen, and we’d have to start from scratch again.
I very much liked the dialogue though, with -blank name- and Helen being my favorite characters of course. Especially Helen, though she doesn’t play a huge part in here apart from the role of romantic interest (well it’s a bit more than that… but then i’d be spoiling it.) I just love the way they meet, I love the way she speaks, and the way she carries herself and her relationships. She’s one of those “I want to be her when I grow up” people, even though i’m a few years shy of 30, and she’s about 24-26 when this happens.
It is a good book, and if you like reading, you should pick up a copy. Or you could go the audiobook route. The guy who narrates it, Josh Hurley, does a surprisingly good job hopping back and forth between Nigel and the other characters, two of which are female, one of which is a French smartass. So imagine the versatility this guy must have to accomplish that. Out of eight I give it a 7 just because of the ending. I mean it was a good conclusion. A friend of mine even called it beautiful, and perfect. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s the empathetic bones in me… but I felt really bad for -blank name-.
Now onto to spoilery territory.
It’s not just Nigel’s relationships that unhappen, its several things. There’s a stretch after his college years, where he literally cannot keep a job. He was supposed to work in science but he keeps jumping from menial job to menial job, getting further and further away from his chosen field.
One day a future version of himself comes back to his time, plucks him out of that time, and brings him about 100 years into the future, to work on “perfecting” a time travel device that he just used.
Everything bad that happens in this book, is because of that future version of himself. And it’s enough to 100% piss me off when I find that out. I mean I understood it, I suppose. A dear friend of yours seems unhappy and you want to fix it. But the problem is making yourself the solution, instead of just finding a different way to solve the problem. It was very selfish and egotistical. It wasn’t the version if Nigel we come to know at the point that we find this out. It was a desperate, slightly bonkers version of him, from a different timeline. He caused the ripple to go out of control, and screw over essentially every single other version of himself.
And when you’re messing with one seemingly small detail that effects someone else that has that high of a profile (such as Carlton, or at that point, Helen), why would you bother going through with it for your own selfish means? Why not just let the pieces fall, and leave them alone? There’s a whole universe out there for the taking, and instead this 60-70 year old guy wants to… “fix” things. By making himself a hero in only his eyes. He bastardized time!
Helen “seemed” unhappy, so he went back and changed her life, ultimately making it ten times worse. At some points driving her and -blank name- completely insane, despite how much they knew about the truth. I mean -blank name- LITERALLY thought that she could speak to TIME itself. She thought that she was hand chosen by some kind of goddess in the sky. She personified time, and gave it a voice that only she could hear.
At the end of it all, when -blank name- makes everything clear, and comes clean with Nigel, you can’t help but think about Penelope (the earliest version of her that Nigel meets) and how much resentment she’s carried for him since that age. She was 15, and hell bent on meeting Nigel and getting down to the bottom of his reasoning. And even after it all, she still carries that resentment. Maybe ten times deeper now, because who the hell tears apart the fabric of time, for the sake of their own relationship?!
It’s romantic, but it’s terrifying. The world ended several times, and each time his only concern was “are Helen and I still together?” I get it, but at the same time, what happened to his work? What happened to fixing the unhappenings? When did it become ALL about Helen and their status together?
The one time, when she didn’t say “stingrays” I just about cried. I knew what was going to happen. It’s one of those things in time travel media that is always consistent. There are certain fixed points in time that you can’t avoid, and theirs was the way the book ended that was foreshadowed several times in the first couple of chapters.
I didn’t actually cry, but my heart did break, as I said, because I felt so bad for -blank name- and Helen. -Blank name- more so, because of the deception she went through, because of the things she had to do, all because of the version of her father that was forced to walk away, leaving her clueless as to who he was or how deeply he cared for her. Because of a mother that couldn’t be honest with her, at least about that. It felt familiar to me. Her life from an early age was nothing but a block of swiss cheese. She just wanted to fill in the gaps, and she ended up driving herself insane to do so.
But anyway, despite what i’ve talked about here, this is just the bare bones of it. You need the meat of the story. You need to know about why, and you need to know about Carlton.
I won’t go into those details. He barely shows up really… but he’s just… the world’s most massive troll.
There are certain heavily veiled pages floating around the internet saying that this book might get a movie adaptation. In my opinion it won’t work out very well, but than again I could be wrong. I just imagine old Nigel, and how cringey he is, and hope that I’m wrong.