Adrienne Martini Reviews Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyParadox Bound, Peter Clines (Crown 978-0-553-41833-0, $26.00, 374pp, hc) September 2017.

In Peter Clines’s Paradox Bound, Eli Teague was an average kid growing up in Sanders ME. It’s about as small a town as you can get and is one of those places where time just seems to move more slowly. One day, when he’s still a younger kid, a woman driving a Ford Model A shows up on his road home – and his life is forever changed.

See [SPOILER ALERT] she’s on the hunt for the American Dream. It’s a real thing, she ex­plains after they reconnect when Eli is an adult. Ben Franklin made it after he returned from France, using some Freemason knowledge. The Dream disappeared in the 1960s, it is thought, and there is a tribe of searchers looking through time for it.

Of course, there are those who’d rather it not be found. These faceless men have zero qualms about making sure it isn’t – or, if it is, it is found by them.

What unspools is a perfectly fine adventure, as Eli gets up to speed and meets some char­acters along the way. The faceless men are all scenery-chewing menace and Harry, the woman driving the Model A, has some details drawn in that buck convention. Clines knows how to structure a chapter, too, so that the whole story has a propulsive energy that drives you from one episode to the next.

What it isn’t, however, is subtle. The sub-text about America and our current political situa­tion isn’t actually sub. That may not have been Clines’s intention, because he’s a skilled enough writer to control his message. But the on-the-nose-ness of the plot makes Eli’s quest and the author’s message feel too simplistic and moves the story from a great one to just a fine one.

Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.

This review and more like it in the April 2018 issue of Locus.

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