Pros: Nifty time-travel
Cons: Confusing time travel
Rating: 4 out of 5
Lise Breakey’s Unraveling Timelines is a clever and interesting time-travel tale. There are Four Families with unique abilities. The Timewalkers, the Telepaths, the Hunters (immortals), and the Seers. Nikkole (Nikki) Varian is a Timewalker, and her father Benedict is the head of the family. Peter Chang is “a baffled, polite young man” who works for Benedict Varian as a stock broker. He’s still not sure why, mind you. He’s mostly a gamer, and knows nothing about stocks or investments. But one day the company called him up to talk about the resume he sent them–except he didn’t send them one–and they hired him. He spotted Nikki coming out of a wall in his boss’s office where careful measurements show that no passage should exist, and this event changes his life forever. Soon he and Nikki are on the run from Hunters and Nikki’s psychopathic brother Erik. When there’s a major strike against Nikki’s family, how will she and Peter keep the timelines from unraveling?
Time travel. Ah, time travel. It’s so hard to do right, and often best when kept simple. The author has clearly put a lot of thought into it, but it definitely isn’t kept simple. It isn’t bad, and mostly makes sense. But when a Timewalker creates a new timeline, and that timeline only exists because they do, it becomes difficult to see any high stakes in the threatening of bystanders. After all, can’t the Timewalker just create a new timeline in which they’re all alive? So does death of a character even matter when you know there are potentially infinite variations of that character? Ultimately wouldn’t there end up being so many Timewalker-dependent timelines that none of them could be considered to really “exist” without the Timewalkers? It’s hard, as a reader, to buy into life-or-death struggles when they’re so easily undone. Also, since it seems fairly easy to split off a new timeline, it’s hard to understand why it doesn’t seem to happen more often, and it’s hard to see how the Timewalkers can so reliably find their way to exactly the right timelines.
Some of the side characters don’t have as much depth as I’d like. Erik is close to being a one-note psycho; Ms. Y pretty much is a one-note psycho; Mr. X at least gains some interest toward the end of the story. X and Y do find some unusually clever ways to interfere with the Timewalkers.
The story is interesting and clever, but it falls short of being amazing.