Any Time At All
(Clockwork Storybook, $14.95, 213 pages, paperback; September 30
Eleven-year-old Roxanne Bonaventure, a difficult child, encounters
a dying woman in the woods, and is given an amulet. By use of the amulet
Roxanne is able to
through the many worlds and times of the Myriad (rather like Moorcock's
multiverse or my own polycosmos), although aging only at the speed of
her own internal bodyclock. Recursive elements abound during her various
adventures; the author's appendix gives brief details about such varied
cultural icons as H.G. Wells, Sexton Blake and The Beatles.
No prizes for guessing the identity of the old woman who gives the
11-year-old Roxanne the amulet, but that's not the kind of game Roberson
is playing in this highly enjoyable book.
I've had to choose that phrase, "highly enjoyable book", with some
care. First, the word "book", because Any Time At All isn't really
a novel in the accepted sense. It's not a collection of linked stories,
either, or even a fixup (whereby pre-existing stories are cobbled together
with additional plot elements to create the appearance of a novel).
Rather, it's a pseudo-novel which takes the form of a fixup,
the tales that comprise it not having the status of independent short
This is a useful form for novelists to exploit, but one of its drawbacks
is that, unless the segments are really well integrated and together
build towards some kind of conceptual or emotional resolution, the expectations
of the reader, whatever the intentions of the author, do demand
that they can indeed stand alone: that each bears its own resolution.
This is where Any Time At All tends to fall down; a few of its
chapters are individually strong enough to satisfy, but too many of
them have the status of "build-up" chapters -- and, as they do not in
fact build up to anything, the reader is left with the feeling
of having been stranded.
Even so, the book is, to return to the other part of my phrase, highly
enjoyable in that for the most part the prose -- frothy and dancing,
often delightfully elegant -- is a joy to read. Chris Roberson is obviously
an author to watch, and this book is an ideal companion for a train
journey, even if at its end one wishes it could have been something
a little more. I look forward very much indeed to reading more by him.
Oh, and Any Time At All has a very nice John Picacio cover.
Review by John Grant.