Entanglement by Bryan Walpert
If you have ever watched the 2010 movie Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy then you may understand when I say that this is the novel equivalent of that film. It is a great film, but you are not always sure what is happening, where you are, or what is going on. On the positive side, at least this book doesn’t leave you with an enigmatic ending like the film.
Entanglement is written using three repeating sections throughout; Lake Lyndon Writers Retreat (in 2019), Sydney (in 2011) and sections called simply Time Traveller which are not dated. When you add the fact that we work backwards in time from the front of the book, you will begin to see where some of the confusion comes from.
All the chapters from the Lake Lyndon Writers Retreat begin with a writing exercise; ‘Write a passage in which one character waits anxiously for another to arrive’, ‘Write a he-said, she-said-argument’ or ‘Write a scene that involves two truths and a lie’. This is a unique way of guiding us into the detail of the story, and also a way of covering tracks to keep us from fully understanding what is happening to the main characters. For anyone who hates that the main character is a writer, this is also a great way of making him a bit more interesting.
Because the sections narrated by the time traveller are not dated, it takes a while to orient yourself as to where they slot into the story. The late emergence of the narrator’s name also helps to keep things opaque. Along the way he will engage with various scholars and physicists to talk about the nature of time travel and how exactly it might work. These pieces help to keep the curious engaged.
Underlying the whole book are themes of time, memory and regret. The quality of the writing keeps all the strands alive and kicking. Here is a little example of what you can expect. One of the writing exercises calls for beginning a scene by describing an imaginary map of a real place:
“Begin with spring, which is at the far corner of the map. Spring is the shape of a river, on which is placed a reed basket with a baby inside. It floats north by northwest, through summer and its tributaries then through autumn and finally winter, early winter, that’s where the map ends, in early winter, at a house on a street called Sycamore Lane – really it is, though there are in fact no sycamores, the landscape plans having been changed by the developer, the developer having changed from one company to another, the first having gone bankrupt due to certain exigencies in the economy and some unwise and illegal actions taken by the chief operating officer, so that though the names of the streets and many of the house models remained the same, the landscaping was sharply reduced to accommodate a rather different budget, swathes of imagined living things erased from the future.”
If you are looking for something well written and different, this is probably exactly what you need!
Reviewer: Marcus Hobson
Mākaro Press RRP $35