Here, There & Everywhere by Chris Roberson
PYR, 2005, $15.00, 283pp
ISBN 1-59102-331-9
This review first appeared on The SF Site
Imagine you’re just 16 once again: young and fit, everything to look forward to, with an entire world to explore… Now, imagine if you were not just 16 again, young and fit, with everything to look forward to, but you also had all of time and space to explore courtesy of a strange device/bracelet called the ‘Sofia’ given to you by a nice (if somewhat mysterious) old lady who simply appeared in front of you in the woods one day. This ‘Sofia’ would not only protect you from almost any possible harm, but also allow you to travel through time and to any possible alternate universe. You can visit universes where your biggest teenage crush was madly in love with you, where the Beatles have reformed, where Jane Austen’s novels actually took place, where the dinosaurs never became extinct, and so on ad infinitum.

Imagine how much better your teenage years might have been then, eh?

That is the basic premise of this book. 16-year-old Roxanne Bonaventure is given this device and Here, There & Everywhere follows her episodically throughout her long and amazing life as she does everything. Roxanne, an intelligent and instantly likeable lass, does just about all you’d expect her to do, and far more. But Chris Roberson’s enormously enjoyable book isn’t just some shoddy teenage power fantasy, it’s a kaleidoscopic look at what the entirety of such a well-lived life might be like; a dizzying dance throughout history and possibility, barely pausing to parody and pastiche just about every other famous time travel story ever written.

Here, There & Everywhere is best read in the spirit of a seven-year-old: full of wonder at the joy of a world where nothing really bad is ever going to happen, where being given magical devices by strange dying old ladies is to be taken in your stride, and is simply a necessary precursor to having good-natured fantastic fun all through time and space and the multiverse. I’m amazed that Roberson has managed to make Roxanne’s character so engaging and sympathetic, given that the mind-boggling amount of experience she fits into her entire life is squeezed into less than 300 pages, but he does.

Roxanne’s life bounces around before our eyes so fast and so chaotically that you may feel slightly guilty at enjoying such a pure mainline of literary hedonism, bereft of ‘proper’ story, ‘proper’ development of character, ‘proper’ attention to detail and ‘proper’ over-analysis of everything. However, I came to Here, There & Everywhere following some heavy-duty non-fiction reads and some, frankly rather dreary, fiction, so this book was like a veritable blast of fresh air. The seeming lack of ‘proper’ story and ‘serious’ writing in no way felt like a bad thing; this is a book that feels jet-propelled, and gives an experience of reading in which you seem to have the wind at your back and the sun in your hair. There are moments of happiness, a few moments of genuine sadness and many more of out-loud laughter shared with our fabulous heroine, and to fit these so easily into such a fractured and manic narrative requires no small amount of writing skill.

Think of Here, There & Everywhere as a highly concentrated dose of story: it never loses its way in needless detail, it doesn’t even know how to spell ‘boredom’ and it point-blank refuses to outstay its welcome (I finished it in just a day). This is why I say it’s a book for the seven-year-old in you, not because it’s childish or immature, but because it’s quick, clean and aims solely to delight.

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