Q: A Novel
By Evan Mandery
Harper August 2011
From the library
The unnamed narrator of this story, a part time history professor and writer of alternative histories, has met the girl of his dreams. The enigmatic and exuberant Q steals his heart from their first meeting in a very awkward movie matinee. As the pair plans their wedding, it seems they are destined to ride off into marital bliss. But he is approached by an old man who claims to be a future version of himself. His other self warns him that he must not marry Q, under any circumstances. Doing so will destroy both of them. Our narrator listens to the advice, but before long another version shows up with new advice. Q is a science fiction romp, a love story, and an examination of lives not lived.
I really enjoyed this book. I think Mr. Mandery succeeded in making a particularly lovable narrator, despite the fact that we don’t ever discover his name. He is as stymied as we are at all of the bizarre things that are happening to him and his frustration matches ours when seemingly endless iterations of himself appear, warning him to take up a new career, stop running, or start meditating. Our narrator has many quirks that make him terribly and wonderfully human.
The time travel component of this novel is very interesting. I have to admit that I don’t read too much science fiction. Despite its subject matter, Q does not read like a science fiction story. Our narrator doesn’t really understand the mechanics of time travel, and so we don’t spend too much time mulling over it. As a disclaimer, reading this book may lead to a long conversation with your husband about the possibility of crossing your own timeline and whether having so many versions of yourself is time traveling or creating multiple universes. But that’s fun, right? Oh. Only I think this is fun? Ok.
Q manages to touch on politics, art, cooking, and literature; but all without taking itself too seriously. A book really can’t be too serious when its protagonist writes alternative histories about what would have happened if Freud studied the reproductive habits of eels instead of people or William Henry Harrison manages to change the course of history…for a few years. This is a fun book to read. I sped through it so quickly that I didn’t stop to make any passages. But be assured, this is a funny modern love story that you don’t want to miss.