I’ll admit that I thought the title of this book was strange. But when I read the author’s background, I was intrigued and hoped he had used a part of his neuroscience-y mind to write this book. He did, but not so much that the average reader can’t follow what’s going on. Just enough that we have to think about what we’re reading; it’s a bit of a mind-bender. It reminded me of The Society of Experience, because of its originality and time-travel elements. They are also very different from one another, so I recommend you read both!
Just imagine you could be the past and the present and the future you, all at the same time… Imagine you had full access. Imagine you knew everything was going to work out, or even if it wasn’t going to work out, at least you’d be ready for what’s coming. The things you could tell yourself, the intellectual conversations, how quickly you could learn. Imagine how much of a comfort it could be.
The narrator of the book, a young man, has always looked up to his sister; she’s brilliant and rebellious. But lately her behaviour has become concerning. She is obsessed with her work at the lab; work that her boyfriend is also a part of. Then she disappears, followed by her boyfriend who leaves behind a mysterious box and a note that says “This is the only way back for us“. From here on in, our narrator is partly losing it and partly trying to figure out how to get his sister back. In the meantime he finds that his existence has begun to disappear around him; his friends don’t know him, his possessions begin to vanish, and he finds he no longer has a bank account. He seems to be racing against time.
What would you do if your sister went missing and you were the only one left who might be able to figure out how to get her back, but in doing so you would have to attempt to enter a place completely unknown and unpredictable in which you already have an inkling that there is some kind of terrible force that might cause you a lot of pain in the process?
In addition to there being a lot going on with the plot in this book, there is also a strong emphasis on family and relationships. There is a lot of stuff going on in this guy’s life and head and in the head of his sister and her boyfriend. Their relationships are complex; revealing some secrets and a few surprises along the way.
Once we understand how to measure subjectivity, then we can manipulate it. Then we can manage a degree of control over it. Then we can begin to overcome the limitations of the objective world, escape these awful, incontrovertible facts of reality…. Then, little brother, for once in our ignorance-congested, noise-saturated lives, we can be alone. We can have time and space to really think.
Read this for many reasons, and know that it will be a fun ride!
There are just some things that are outside of comprehension, even if we can quantify them. At some point, science becomes magic.
Review at the Quill & Quire: “…it is the novel’s juxtaposition of clashing wills and personalities, as well as philosophies, that makes it shiver with life.”
It’s about what happens when the known brushes up against the unknown, and how to live with dignity when reality is so vast and mostly incomprehensible.
Of course questions of time perception, memory, and agency are informed by studying their neurobiological bases, but I was as much fascinated by why scientists chase these questions, what their motivations are, and whether there are better and worse ways to explore our worlds.
*Thanks to Random House Canada for sending my an ARC of this book! Quotations used in my review are from an uncorrected proof.