Pros: An unusually good time travel tale
Cons: One plot device that could have been a plot point instead
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Peter Clines’s Paradox Bound is my new favorite time travel tale. There are just so many potential problems and pitfalls in time travel stories that I don’t generally enjoy reading them, particularly since historical fiction also isn’t my favorite genre. I’ve loved other Peter Clines stories enough, however, that I was absolutely willing to give this one a try.
Eli Teague lives in a little town that’s so backward he has to drive to a nearby town just to find an IT job. Several times during his life he’s interacted with a woman named Harry (short for Harriet) who drives a very old car that runs on water. She dresses as though she’s straight from a group of Revolutionary War reenactors. Finally events come together such that he ends up tracking her down while running from a faceless, suited man who seems to be hunting Harry and others like her. He joins her in her hunt for the missing American Dream, which was stolen from its resting place. Now the faceless men who were responsible for guarding the Dream have turned to instead hunting down other searchers who are looking for it for their own reasons. After all, it’s rumored that the one who finds it can help to shape the future of the Dream. Of course, no one knows what it looks like or how to find it, and they’re all using little slippery spots to cut through bits of history here and there looking for traces of its passing. A whole society of these people has sprung up, some of them famous historical figures, others just searchers like Eli and Harry.
The details surrounding the searchers and their habits that have sprung up are fantastic. For example, people have painted poker chips with their monograms they can give someone to indicate they owe them a favor, that can thus be cashed in before or after that favor was handed out (time travel-wise).
SPOILER WARNING: The one detail I had trouble with was a certain favor owed by one person to another. It was the sole favor that person had ever given out, and played a significant role in the plot, so some idea of how the person earned that favor would have made this seem to be more of a plot point than a convenient plot device. End Spoilers.
The concept of the founding fathers having convinced an old god to forge the American Dream is just masterful and fascinating. I’m not a history buff, but I really enjoyed the ideas here. And of course, the notion of the American Dream and what it means to us is very timely right now. This is a clever time travel adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously but delves into fascinating areas.