Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls is a novel that combines the approach-ability of the mainstream novel with the complexity of time travel creating something rather unique. Opening with a chilling prologue detailing the first confrontation between our protagonist and our antagonist the novel quickly segues into what feels like a straightforward chase scene during the Great Depression. It is during this opening scene in which Harper Curtis stumbles upon the house that will change his life, a house that allows him to open the door onto just about any time and a house the contains links to the titular Shining Girls. The novel bumps back and forth between time and perspective detailing the Harper’s escapades across time, the lives of his Shining Girls, and experiences of Kirby as she embarks upon a quest to find the man who tried to kill her.
Orson Scott Card
Simon Pulse, 2012
Have you ever read a book that was almost compulsively readable yet you can’t decided whether it was good or not? For me Orson Scott Card’s Ruins is such a book. Picking up almost immediately after 2011’s Pathfinder, Ruins continues the journey of Rigg, Umbo, and Param as they search for the truth behind the world of Garden and uncover the mysteries of the Walls which segregate it. Rigg, as readers learn in Pathfinder, has the ability to see the paths of the past, where living creatures have left an imprint on the world. Trained by a machine-man to be able to read people and societies Rigg departed on a journey that saw him join up with several other children who have abilities similar to his. The interaction of the time manipulation powers of Rigg, Umbo, and Param allows them to cross the previously impenetrable border between their home and the next wallfold. This is where Ruins picks up as the three powered teens along with the soldier/scholar Olivenko and Loaf begin to explore their second wallfold.
I started this sort of randomly. I mean, I certainly intended to read it next, but I was on my way to the bathroom (tmi?) and saw it sitting there on my desk and just sort of brought it along. Then we had more than a foot of snow dumped on us so I kept reading. I don’t know what it is about the novel that prompted me to keep reading. I think that it had something to do with the sort-of wearied spy/two old soldiers talking dialogue early in the novel. There is a certain undeniable attraction to the “I’m too old for this.” mentality in protagonists that I sometimes find hard to resist.
Cowboy Angels is sort of like Sliders but instead of dumb graduate student it was spies that had discovered a way to hop realities. These spies don’t get lost but instead became part of an initiative to create an alliance of America’s across multiple realities. Of course, all of that happened before Cowboy Angels started. The novel opens with a regime change predicated on the desire to end the violence and resource drain caused by the active pursuit the so-called Pan-American Alliance. Agreements are broken and those original spies, the Cowboy Angels, are more-or-less hung out to dry. Fast forward several years later and retired CIA Agent Stone is living out his retirement in a prehistoric sheaf (alternate reality) running a hunting lodge when he is called back in by The Company to track down his former partner who has apparently been on a murder spree targeting the dopel’s (alternate reality versions) of a mathematician. Almost against his will Stone is dragged back into the field.