Roxanne Bonaventure is unique. Raised by her widower father, the ultimate absentminded professor, in England, Roxanne grows up lonely, but independent. Professor Bonaventure knows he can't provide his only child with the attention she needs, so he sends Roxanne to America. Situated among gifted and talented youth, she no longer feels unique—but her life soon takes a fateful turn when she encounters an old woman in the woods near her school. Dying of a mortal wound, the woman gives Roxanne a silver band. Roxanne soon names the bracelet the Sofia (Greek for "wisdom"), and discovers it is a time machine. As Roxanne grows older, she embarks on several adventures, and she and her father learn the bracelet's "rules": time traveling to the past or future doesn't necessarily change her timeline, it just spins off into other worldlines. By following the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, this neatly sidesteps all of the usual time-travel paradoxes, and gives Roxanne almost superhuman power. (The Sofia steers her away from any worldline that would put her in harm's way—unless she desires otherwise.)
Roberson has a gift for creating colorful characters. The early chapters with Roxanne as a child are excellent, and as she ages, my sympathy remained with her. During Roxanne's adventures through time we are introduced to Sanford Blank, a mysterious and famous detective from Victorian England, who teaches her groovy martial arts. We also meet a collection of hilarious "time guardians" of one allegiance or another, and it's lots of fun to see Roxanne outwit them. As the novel progresses, however, it does become increasingly episodic. I didn't realize it at the time, but Roberson had initially written many adventures as stand-alone episodes that were originally published at Opi8.com and other places. Even so, the novel has enough connective tissue to keep it from descending into fix-up-ville.
Despite the novel's overall light tone, it never shies away from aging or mortality. Roxanne's mother has long been deceased, something that has obviously affected Roxanne, informing her inability to maintain lasting relationships; Roxanne continues to age in subjective time throughout the narrative; and the novel's narrative voice changes subtly as well. It's worth noting that Chris Roberson is also obviously a Beatles fan (and any readers who are Beatles fans will be in for a treat with the excellent first chapter). Roxanne Bonaventure even begins to resemble a heroine from a Beatles song; in her elusive nature there's a bit of Penny Lane, and even Eleanor Rigby.
Of course, Here, There & Everywhere is not entirely without flaws. One section deals a little too breezily with women's roles through the ages: "That periodically women were unfairly treated, and denied their proper role in society, cannot be disputed . . . But such periods are mere transitions, and over the long haul cannot sustain . . . In the vast majority of instances I have seen, the only power men possessed was simply that which the women allowed them to have." (239-40) This sort of "aw shucks" statement comes off as a shoddy consolation prize, and a little self-congratulatory. If Roberson had left this section out, I think the book would have been much stronger. He has considerable powers of imagination, and it would have been interesting to see his take on a matrifocal society.
Aside from that criticism, I found the book fun on several levels. Roberson seasons the tale with many pleasant tips of the hat to old masters like Heinlein and Bradbury, but the ending is pure, nonironic SF that evoked Clarke and Asimov for me. Roberson is a gifted fantasist (his exceptional short story "O One" from Live Without a Net proves he ain't no one-trick pony) and I certainly look forward to his future stories. Here, There, & Everywhere can be enjoyed as a breezy and light-hearted adventure, an excellent entry in the "Many Worlds" time-travel canon, and a sober examination of loneliness. I recommend it.
Note: Here, There & Everywhere had an earlier life as a shorter POD-produced book entitled Any Time At All. Both feature stunning cover art by John Picacio, one of the most gifted cover artists working today.
Mahesh Raj Mohan's previous publications at Strange Horizons can be found here and here. He has also been published at The Internet Review of Science Fiction, The Alien Online, and Scifaikuest. He lives in Portland, OR, with his lovely and talented wife Sara Strohmeyer, who is also a writer. He is working on several short stories and a novel. He can be found on the web at http://moksh.blogspot.com.
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