In Peter Clines‘s Paradox Bound, a young man leaves his small town to embark on a cross-country trek to find the mysterious traveler he met in his youth, and it lands him on a dangerous journey … through history!
Eli Teague lives in Sanders, a behind-the-times town in Maine that doesn’t even have internet or cell service. While he finds the place boring, he’s not really compelled to move. Instead, he awaits the possible return of Harry, the traveler who he twice encountered as a boy who whizzed in and out of his life so quickly. He’s never forgotten about this woman dressed in Revolutionary War garb, driving a tricked-out Model-A Ford that runs on something other than gasoline. Who was she really and would she ever return?
The book introduces us to a young, lonely Eli, who spends his time riding his bike, reading comics, and trying to avoid bullies (not always successfully). When he spots Harry trying to get her Model-A Ford on the road, he witnesses some bizarre events, including what looks to be faceless men. Years later, Harry returns for another brief yet strange encounter with the boy. When Eli finally sees her again when he’s an adult, he decides this time he needs answers, because he’s never been able to forget her. But Harry’s just as secretive as ever, which is why Eli decides to take a huge risk by leaving everything behind to find the mystery woman. What he expects to find, he doesn’t even know. He also doesn’t realize just how dangerous his quest is and will become.
Clines writes Eli the way Stephen King writes his child characters — smarter and more intuitive for their age, inquisitive, kind-hearted, downtrodden, bullied, and yet also special in some way. With Eli, it’s clear he is destined for more than small-town life, especially one that hasn’t made it into the twenty-first century yet. His encounters with Harry could not have been by chance; they were meant to be and are a gateway for his future.
While Eli’s journey starts out somewhat mundane — train travel, lots of questions — the more he learns about Harry, the more in danger he becomes. The faceless men turn out to be more than he could have imagined. I enjoyed that some chapters actually gave us events through the faceless men’s perspective. While reading those passages, I could easily envision the story unfolding as a television series. (This actually reminded me a lot of how the angels DeBlan and Fiore were handled in Season 1 in AMC’s Preacher).
When I started Paradox Bound, I didn’t know much about it and had never read anything by Clines before. I don’t think I even read the full synopsis ahead of time. But by the end of the first page, I already knew I liked the author’s writing style and immediately connected to Eli as a character. Harry, though, was a bit too mysterious to begin with, but this is a story that necessitates that. You’re better off not knowing what’s coming, because as more is revealed, it becomes a really exciting adventure. There are a lot of twists — some of which can get convoluted; there were times I had to re-read portions because I wasn’t sure if I had missed something. Actually, once you realize what the book is about, you will want to go back and read the beginning to see what you might have passed up initially as seemingly irrelevant tidbits. There will also likely be some characters that seem familiar to you, but Clines mostly doesn’t make it too obvious. At the end of the book is a short Afterword from the author that does reveal some of what you might have suspected and more of what you had no clue about.
Back To The Future (mostly Part III), Natural Treasure, The Matrix, and, as previously mentioned, the child characters of Stephen King are what kept popping up in my mind as I read this book, which is divided into three parts – “The First Time Around,” “The Second Iteration,” and “The Last Paradox.” I don’t want to say too much more, since there’s a lot to uncover as the story progresses (things really pick up starting with Part II), but if you like American history, you’ll dig what’s going on here.
Paradox Bound is an exciting, imaginative adventure and a fantastical journey through American history.
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 historyÂ””with nothing less than America’s past, present, and future at stake.