Some people say that they wouldn’t change a thing about their past because they would no longer be the person that they are now. Most of us, whom I think are a bit more honest, would probably love to get a chance to delve into the past and maybe make a small change here or there. That’s probably why time travel stories are so popular.
Unhappenings by Edward Aubry is the latest entry into this genre, and it’s quite a worthy addition. Unhappenings is the story of Nigel Walden, whom at fourteen experiences his first kiss. The girl disappears the next day, with no sign that she ever existed. It’s the first of many such events that Nigel comes to call unhappenings.
Mr. Aubrey rings a pile of changes on these events, and it’s one of the books strengths; the whys and wherefores of time travel theory are in this book, and they are sound. The emphasis however, is squarely upon Nigel, and what such events do to him, and effect how he lives his life. Mr. Aubry does a splendid job in showing us Nigel’s life without excess sentiment but plenty of empathy.
Later in his life he is met but two people from his future, the most interesting being the un-named girl/woman that Nigel bestows names upon, and who gives him just enough information about what is going on to tantalize us, but not enough to whet our appetite.
There are so many twists and turns in this book that it makes it very hard to review in any depth without pouring spoilers all over the place, but just let me say that Nigel discovers that the unhappenings are not a natural event, and he discovers, a Love, and an Enemy. I know that I am sounding as enigmatic as Nigel’s guide from the future, but I can’t help it. One of the joys of this book is enjoying the tightly-woven plot that Mr. Aubry lays out for us; like a house of cards, if I pull out the wrong one, I’ll ruin the book for you, so you’ll just have to trust me.
Mr. Aubry decided to write this book in very short chapters, which works well in keeping us off of our feet as far as knowing when and where we are at, but it does have a tendency to thwart some of the narrative drive. There were a handful of places in the book where I just wanted him to let it roll, but that is a fairly small complaint.
Also, after the leisurely pace of the early chapters there are some major apocalyptic events near the end that are just glossed over, but again, this is Nigel’s story, and the story sticks with him, for good or ill. The ending might strike some as being a bit too down-beat, but I thought that it struck just the right note. Now I don’t know if I would be so quick to travel back to my past.
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