(2005) Chris Roberson, Pyr (Prometheus Books), $15.00, pbk, 283pp, ISBN 1-59102-331-9
This is a sweet little fairy tale book in which Roxanne Bonaventure, at the age of eleven, is given a device, the Sofia, which allows her to travel to all spaces and times, including alternate realities. The dying old woman who gives her this gift is obviously (both to the readers and character) an older version of herself, so the only real mystery is where the device comes from. In the meantime Roxanne contents herself with bopping around the continua, taking in Beatles concerts and running into the self-appointed Chrono Defense Corps. They, and other groups, concern themselves with trying to keep the continuum (from their point of view) free of temporal incursions whereas Roxanne (and science lovers) know that "interference" in the timeline just splits off a separate 'world' but does not close off the 'existing' one in a timelike loop. The book follows Roxanne as she becomes progressively older and deals with the kind of things that have been occuring to SF writers for as long as there's been a genre; for instance, trying to save her father's life from cancer. The book reads in a very pulp-ish way (and it's interesting that Paul Di Filippo's back cover blurb compares the book to two titles from 1962), which is no bad thing, but the clues to the central mystery (the origin of the Sofia) are a bit heavy-handed if you're looking out for them, and it's given away in the early part of the book (if you're paying attention) during a discussion on what the incursion of a higher-dimensional being would look like to those whose dimension is being intruded upon.
There's a lot to like about this book for the experienced genre fan - the different time machines and related characters, including HG Wells, the homages to characters like Sexton Blake, and the comedic run-ins with the Chrono Defense Corps - and the science is well-observed (except for the operation of the Sofia, which is just plausible-sounding gobbledegook), but I'd still say that this novel is a "juvenile". Not that there's anything wrong with that - how else might younger readers be attracted to the genre? There are plenty of juveniles on many an SF collectors' shelves, and they're all there to be enjoyed and recommended. Certainly I'm more than happy to recommend this one - it's a very good example of its type. It also has the good grace not to go too far into silliness; for instance, Roxanne explores the possibility that "fictional" worlds might actually exist in some continuum (eg. Alice in Wonderland), but finds that to create such a continuum its 'worldline' would have had to have split from her baseline so early on in the life of the universe that the wormhole connecting her reality to its would pass through the near aftermath of Big Bang and make passage impossible. Therefore she doesn't make any credulity snapping excursions into totally fictional continua. It is for these little bits that the book is most deserving of praise. Nice one.
See also Jonathan's pre-publication review of this title.
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