My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Magic boxes never bode well for those who find them in fiction. More often than not, they're just a big damn recipe for disaster. While the Cochineal Box in Chuck Wendig's The Forever Endeavor is certainly a far cry from Lemarchand's Box, it is still quite a square little hell raiser in its own right.
While cutting through an alley one December eve, pill addict Dale stumbles across the grisly scene of two homeless men locked by death in an eternal struggle over a strange object. Dale's curiosity gets the better of him, and quickly enough he learns that this item now in his possession can, with the push a button, send him back in time ten minutes. However, this creates the paradox of appearing next to his earlier incarnation. This usually does not bode well for said earlier incarnations, as Detective Bard learns when a mass grave site is uncovered in a pumpkin patch with twenty-some highly irregular victims.
Chuck Wendig is one of my new favorite authors, thanks largely in part to his Miriam Black series, which placed him in my auto-buy column of writers. This decision was reinforced by his Heartland Trilogy and Atlanta Burns books, and Mookie Pearl, and Star Wars tie-in novels. Although those have received some measure of derision from certain corners, I still enjoyed Aftermath and have the second queued up on my Kindle for sometime soon. So yeah, look, I'm a fan. I love Wendig's blog, and I love his books. I follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and I just think he's a cool dude and a terrific storyteller.
Perhaps the one thing I appreciate most about his work is the measure of variation he brings to the table. Some writers are content to produce the same book over and over again and just slap a different title on it. But Wendig does different things with each book he writes. Invasive was a semi-sequel to Zeroes, but they couldn't be more different. Miriam Black and Atlanta Burns are both tough, foul, sorta mean heroines, but their similarities are fewer than their differences.
The Forever Endeavor is certainly a Chuck Wendig Book, but it's also pretty wildly different than what he's done previously. The time travel device is a well-trod staple in science fiction/fantasy, but Wendig puts a nice spin on it by presenting a temporal limitation, which puts Dale in particularly interesting situations. His relationship with his ex is a nice touch, and the nature of the Dale's character gives this a nicely dark twist on the trope of dude who goes back in time to salvage his relationship. Things get bleak, fast.
About the only thing that didn't work for me here was a minor subplot involving a pair of gods and their gambling over Dale's will-he or -won't-he succeed. I didn't think it added much to the proceedings, and they're so peripheral to Dale and Bard's plight that they do little to raise the stakes. They're an interesting diversion, but they never struck me as being wholly additive to the plot. If their scenes were removed, it wouldn't noticeably change the overall story being told. However, if their scenes and involvement had been beefed up, it could have been a really cool bit of added fantasy. As it stands, I'm kinda meh to this particular story thread, but it is such a small addition to the story that it fails to impact the book one way or the other.
Needless to say, I enjoyed The Forever Endeavor. It's tightly written, and I really dug the fractured nature to the story's presentation. Wendig skips back and forth in time between Dale's and Bard's stories, but it's still easy to track and keep up with, and watching their alternating threads finally wind together is a thrill. This is a quick read, and a really fun time travel romp with a bit of a twist.
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