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Here, There and Everywhere

by Chris Roberson

(Pyr, $15.00, 282 pages, paperback, also available as hardback published 5 April 2005.)

Review by Keith Brooke

Here, There and Everywhere by Chris Roberson

As outlined in the author's afterword, Here, There and Everywhere has a rather more convoluted history than most novels. It started out as part of a challenge to write a novel in 72 hours. The inevitably short and rough outcome of the dare was a novella, Out of Joint, which went on to form the nucleus for the short novel Any Time at All, which earned praise in various places, including here at infinity plus. A further rewrite, and expansion, at last, brings us to the current volume, Here, There and Everywhere. Phew.

The novel is episodic and fragmented, as it takes us through the long life of the charmingly funny and knowing adventurer Roxanne Bonaventure. That these episodes sometimes seem a bit too abbreviated and glancing might reflect the way this novel accreted around the author as much as it reflects the simple fact that Roberson is trying to pack a hell of a lot in to what is still a relatively short novel (282 pages).

It all starts in a prologue where a documentary-maker makes a connection: the young woman with the blonde bob pictured at an early Beatles gig in Hamburg is the same blonde bobbed woman photographed the next year back at the Cavern. And the same woman is seen on a neighbouring rooftop at the famous impromptu performance on the roof of the Beatles' Apple offices in 1969. And she doesn't appear to have aged a day in all this time...

The bobbed blonde is, of course, our heroine, Roxanne Bonaventure, visiting the key points in the various histories of her favourite band. The word histories is used advisedly: this isn't simple time travel -- Roxanne skips from one wordline to another, for this is an explication of the many worlds theory, with worldlines splitting off at every decision point, every either/or, from the quantum level upwards. In other words, anything that might have been is (or was, or will be), a conclusion Roxanne explores as her travels take her ever-farther from her base worldline.

The mechanics of it all? Well Roberson does a convincing enough job of explaining the theoretical background without dwelling on it for too long, and Roxanne's travelling is facilitated by a magical doodah given to her by an ailing old woman early on in the story. (Okay: not magical, but as good as for most of the story, and tidily explained at the end -- but that's not really the point: it's the getting there that is the point in this highly enjoyable tale, not the mcguffin or the scientific rationale.)

Here, There and Everywhere is a lot of fun, but it's more than just that, too. In Roxanne we have a sharp portrait of a kid who can't quite manage to fit in -- she's too inquisitive, too assertive, too smart by much more than half -- and who, anyway, doesn't want to fit in. Which is just swell, because when you spend your life lurching from one worldline to another you're always going to be the outsider. There are some wonderful moments in this novel, from the early scene where Roxanne's father is called in to school because Roxanne has been causing trouble, and proves even harder to deal with than his daughter, to the affectionate pastiches of Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones and even Dr Who, which, while having a definite air of digression, entertainingly take centre stage just past the halfway mark.

There's a sense with Here, There and Everywhere of a story that builds up a head of steam which it can't quite handle by the end, but then it's a hell of a head of steam, and Roberson does an admirable job of trying to pull it all back into shape at the conclusion. Not without its flaws, I liked Here, There and Everywhere a lot.

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