Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: Paradox Bound, by Peter Clines

Time travelers in search of the American Dream.

Paradox Bound

Crown, 2017, 373 pages

Nothing ever changes in Sanders. The town's still got a video store, for God's sake.

So why doesn't Eli Teague want to leave?

Not that he'd ever admit it, but maybe he's been waiting - waiting for the traveler to come back. The one who's roared into his life twice before, pausing just long enough to drop tantalizing clues before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires. The one who's a walking anachronism, with her tricorne hat, flintlock rifle, and steampunked Model A Ford.

The one who's being pursued by...something.

So when the mysterious traveler finally reappears, Eli's determined that this time, he's going to get some answers. But his hunt soon yields far more than he bargained for, plunging him headlong into a dizzying world full of competing factions and figures straight out of legend.

To make sense of the mystery at its heart, he must embark on a breakneck chase across the country and through two centuries of history - with nothing less than America's past, present, and future at stake.

Peter Clines writes fairly lightweight popcorn sci-fi, showing his versatility more in terms of story and plot than characterization, dialog, or writing. Not to say any of that is bad, but he's not a craftsman and his books are not deep. He is creative and from his post-apocalyptic zombie/superhero mash-ups to his Lovecraftian conspiracy novels, I have always found him entertaining enough to keep reading his work. And then six months later I will look at one of his books and know that I read it, but I can barely remember anything about it.

That will probably be the case of Paradox Bound. It's fun, cute, and has some neat gimmicks, but it's basically about a guy, and a girl, who go on a time traveling road trip in search of the American Dream, being chased by Faceless Men, and all the characters are pretty stock archetypes and mostly Clines is taking his turn at a time travel story to spin his own explanation for Grandfather Paradoxes and Meeting Yourself in the Future and so on.

The main character, Eli Teague, is the sort of Everyman schmuck I kind of hate. I mean, I don't need all main characters to be heroic, let alone Heinleinian autodidacts. A protagonist who is kind of ordinary and flawed is fine. But the protagonist who spends most of the book whining, getting beaten up, and pushed around by both the villains and the feisty female love interest just annoys me. Eli isn't completely spineless, but he's kind of a wimp (we have the obligatory childhood story of being a fat nerd who was bullied, and of course his bully ends up growing up to become one of the bad guys), and when he meets Harriet (aka "Harry") their banter has all the sexual tension of an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Harry is a time traveler in a Model A Ford, which keeps being referred to as "steampunk" because it's got a futuristic engine that runs on water. And because Harriet wears a tricorne hat. Look, people, just because you mix some historical anachronisms with advanced technology does not make your story "steampunk"!

Anyway, in this story, all the time travelers are searching for the actual, literal, physical embodiment of the American Dream, which exists because of something something Founding Fathers Masons Egyptian gods mumble mumble. They are chased by the Faceless Men who are sort of Lawful Evil Terminators with similarly thin origins.

Put it all together and you've got a good if not memorable yarn, which is about what I expect from Peter Clines. This isn't his best work (in his afterword, he joins the Trump Despair Train of authors complaining about how the 2016 election affected his writing), but it still satisfied me enough that I'll read a Peter Clines novel just on the strength of his name alone.

Also by Peter Clines: My reviews of Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, Ex-Purgatory, 14, and The Fold.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, peter clines, reviews, science fiction

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