Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: "The Lost Time Accidents" by John Wray

John Wray’s gargantuan; mind melting new novel The Lost Time Accidents is the hardest yet most rewarding book I have read all year, and my favorite melding of Science Fiction and high literature since Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things. At times it was maddening trying to keep track of everything. This is a very rich and complex book: the hard work it took to craft something so original must be reciprocated by the reader’s hard work in reading it. It was frustrating at times, but in a good way: this was such a cool story I just had to take my time with every detail and understand, or try to understand this books twisted logic. I was not as successful as I wanted to be in deciphering all I could, but as some characters remark in the book, they don’t either. This novel recalls, as Colum McCann is quoted as saying on the back cover of the book, the best of Haruki Murakami and the best of David Mitchell as well, both world builders whose creations tell us just as much about ourselves as they do the writers and their stories. This book tries its best to make sense of the madness of life, how brutal and short it can be while at the same time being something we cling to, try to control and try to make better. And all these qualities are shot through one of the more unique looks at time travel I have come across. As the novel opens up, we find Waldemar “Waldy” Tolliver in a very strange predicament. Somehow, through forces we will come close to finding out about as the book chugs forth, kicked out of the present timeline and is stuck on Monday at 8:47 in the morning. He is in the library of his two aunts (two odd people we will get to know well), a place that recalled the menacing trap set up in Mitchell’s Slade House, and he thinks the only way out of this is to write out his family’s history. Splitting timelines three ways, one set in Waldy’s punishment, one about his time right before his punishment where he met Mrs. Haven, the love of his life who he refers to in all three timelines, and the numbered chapters of his family history, beginning with his great-grandfather Ottokar Toula, professional pickler and amateur physicist, who stumbled onto the theory of the title and was quickly hit by a car. We follow that timeline through Otto’s son’s Kasper and Waldemar, the latter of which becomes an infamous Nazi war criminal, to Waldy’s father, a science fiction author who put his family’s history in his most famous book, which inspired enough people to create a religion out of it, one which has more than a hand in Waldy’s present situation. This book is a mental workout, and like most workouts, you’ll feel leaner and stronger afterward. This is a great, big book filled with original characters (special mention of Waldy’s aunts, who fill roles that are typically male) and a story that sucks you in and moves you in odd ways. Don’t miss this one.
Rating: 5/5

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