I’m amused that Blake Crouch blurbed this book. I’ve read a few of his and I always like the concept more than the execution. This is the book he has always wanted to write. This is a legitimately great book.
I usually don’t do genre mashups. Give me mystery (my favorite genre) or science fiction (an occasional dabble) but don’t give me both. The Inception-meets-True Detective tagline didn’t inspire me as much as it probably did others who tried this (and for what it’s worth, this is more Interstellar-meets-True Detective). I’ve been down that road before with that kind of A-meets-B formula. In fact, it took me two tries with this one.
But damn, it was worth it. For two major reasons:
- I don’t follow complex plots well in mysteries, much less science fiction tales. There is a deep complexity here…but I feel like Sweterlitsch never cheats the reader. I was able to understand for the most part what was going on the whole time. He used just the right amount of exposition while also trusting the reader to let the story unfold. An incredible balancing act. Or maybe I’m getting older and focus easier because I have nothing better to do. Either way, I didn’t have the issues I normally have with books like these.
- A concept like this book always sounds fun but the writer will often eschew character development and relationships in favor of world building. So many writers who do time travel/expand the universe/complex mystery stories want you to get hung up in the complexity. Not here. While the story is complex, I knew the characters. I cared about the characters. I was invested in them. The stakes felt real because the people felt real. Especially the protagonist.
This is a great book for writers who want to do genre mashups and need to learn how to thread the needle between story and universe. I don’t know how you do it better than Tom Sweterlitsch does here.
It also makes me reconsider my ratings system. I just finished Daisy Jones and the Six, a fun book with some beautiful moments that is closer to a 4-star read but I gave it 5 because the highs are really high. But this one was a start-to-finish 5-star read. It roared. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It took my breathe away and is the early front runner for my best read in 2020.