Rating: 6.1 (out of 10)
Peter Clines’ Paradox Bound reads like an extended pitch for a tv series. The silly-but-catchy premise has a pair of time travelers zipping around American history in search of the American Dream (literally), pursued by faceless monster-men who want to stop them. Along the way they predictably encounter figures from American history/legend, debunk myths and discover hidden truths about our nation’s past – the kind of “big canvas” setup that makes network execs wipe drool off their chins, even if the novel itself only plays at a handful of such possibilities. The plot ties itself off in a nice, neat, timey-wimey loop but also leaves itself open for further adventures. I’m thinking NBC, maybe USA if they want to go cable.
It’s exactly this kind of pandering to its own premise that keeps this modestly entertaining novel from being anything special. It’s mostly risk-averse in execution – likeable but bland characters, dangerous but not terrifying foes, clues and twists that titillate but don’t awe. Clines is an expert storyteller; he knows how to manipulate the reader by tugging a heartstring here and clenching a forearm there. It all ends up having a bit of a Wonderbread feel to it, though; just another product prepared for mass consumption – a (perhaps inadvertently) cynical by-product of a story that is paradoxically brimming with unjaded optimism.