Is Marvin Waterstone a time traveler, a killer, just plain crazy or some combination of all three? This intriguing mystery lays out evidence for solving the conundrum, as the erudite Waterstone regales an unusually receptive psychiatrist with his adventures.
Stevens, in his debut, employs an onomatopoeic writing technique, subtly changing styles to suit the various tales as they move from biblical times to the present. The book opens with Waterstone, wisecracking like a film noir detective as he explains the ins and outs of “chronojumping”: The method involves taking over a host—aka a wipchip (“Weak and isolated psyche of a chronologically indigenous person”)—in what is known as icing (i.e., “Insertion of chronojumper”). Along the way, the author suggests Waterstone is telling the truth; his analytical tales contain excruciatingly minute details. But Stevens also peppers his narrative with doubts, such as Waterstone forgetting his own story, contradicting himself and obviously hiding something. Whatever the case, jump after jump, Waterstone’s actions bring about a bad end for the wipchip: One is cast into slavery, another is left suicidal, another fired and yet another executed. Like Waterstone, this book is several things: mystery, sci-fi, psychological drama, puzzle. As readers move through history and approach the true motives of patient and psychiatrist, Waterstone’s tone and Stevens’ style evolve from glib to sardonic to introspective to downright philosophical. At the same time, as more facts and motives are revealed, it becomes less and less certain what is actually going on. Even what should be a definitive ending is ambiguous; the fact that Stevens pulls it off with such flair is a testament to his writing skills.
An enigmatic leading man in a twisted mystery that may need to be read twice—a good thing.