In Kuhn’s debut sci-fi novel, a mysterious stranger grants a harried family man the ability to make short-duration leaps back in time—in alternate universes.
George Hartdegan, in 2014, is somewhat stuck in a rut with a comfortable but stolid marriage, a rebellious son and daughter, and a job in a dysfunctional workplace that’s poised on the edge of downsizing. Then he’s approached by an alleged physics teacher calling himself “Shiloh” who wants him to help beta test an incredible new Apple Watch app. By selecting a date in the past, George can go back and relive that day again—but only in a parallel-universe variation; when his time is up, he finds himself back in his original, mundane existence. It becomes less mundane, though, when he faces a string of family tragedies that he can’t alter with his newfound power, except in breakaway timelines. Also, George can only use the app 10 times, so what can he gain from this intriguing but frustrating fluke of physics? Kuhn offers an ambitious tale that takes its chapter titles (and book title) from pop-music hits and seems to take thematic cues from the likes of Daniel Quinn, Dan Millman, and possibly Carlos Castaneda, who also used the vehicle of fantastic fiction to impart philosophical truths. Bibliographical footnotes elucidate Kuhn’s concept of the multiverse. Mostly through the voice of Shiloh, the author argues convivially for positive ethical choices, even when the results of said decisions seem immaterial; graceful acceptance of adversity; and the nondenominational existence of a sort of divine plan behind everything, no matter how random life seems. It also effectively gets behind the idea that “All You Need is Love.” Switch Shiloh with an angel, and this mind-stretcher would be kind of a soft-rock, sci-fi It’s a Wonderful Life (or lives, as the case may be). Despite the sentimentality, though, the characters are nicely developed. There are also shoutouts to the graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta, TV’s Doctor Who, and a clever nod to the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series.
An amicable story that offers time travel as a self-improvement exercise for the middle-class Everyman.