The Forever Endeavor by Chuck Wendig centers on a red box with a black button. Already the viewpoint is contrarian (Don’t hit the red button). Dale is in possession of the box and has decided to throw it in the ocean but before he can do that he is shot (dead?). Given that Dale is the main protagonist; this looks like the shortest novella ever. Of course, that is not the case. But the segment ends. In the following segment, Detective Walter Bard finds Dale’s bodies. There are approximately twenty of them and forensic examination confirms they are all Dale. How can I put down a book with a start like this?
This is a novella, probably tagged as such because it has (only) 172 pages. For me, Chuck Wendig is a bright, shiny distraction from whatever schedule I am currently following. It could be my work schedule, daily routine stuff, my reading schedule, or blog posts of book reviews. A publication announcement for this novella hit my inbox on October 28 and all my other schedules went on hold. Chuck Wendig novels are always good on several levels from the content itself to the ways the stories are presented. I spent a couple of days reading this while doing other things. I like reading Wendig novels in this manner. Each time I return to his novels I enjoy recalling previously read material; sometimes I even understand some things better.
A note on the presentation. This novella has 12 parts; each part has several subsections with eye-catching titles which many times make little sense until after you have read the section. There are almost 60 of these sections. One example is: “COSMIC FORCES AT YOUR LOCAL WAFFLE HOUSE.” This is followed by a description that looks like this: “Charlotte, North Carolina: October 24th, 2011.” The place and the date are important; you may want to use a highlighter for this because the story (necessarily) jumps back and forth depending on character development. A reader (me) can get confused as to when something is happening. I have a mental picture of Chuck Wendig at a huge storyboard with lots of index cards labeled with place names and dates. The novella is finished; the story goes along in a linear timeline and is easy to follow. I imagine a voice in the twisted mind of Wendig saying “Wait, this was a lot of work for me, why shouldn’t the reader have to do some work as well?” I imagine him taking all the cards and throwing them into the air. After sweeping them up, he sends the collection to the publisher with the instructions to publish the book in the order received. Just a thought.
The organization of this novel is appropriate and necessary. It is about time travel, sort of, and about cloning. The time travel is a bit less important because it varies depending on the user of the box. But the cloning is a serious business because it requires necessary killing. The button is pushed, the process begins, and a clone of the button pusher is created. We have two identities of the same person existing in the same place and this cannot be allowed. What would authorities think? What would girlfriends think? One of the two must be killed and hidden in a well-concealed burial location.
Dale is not a person who loves killing, at least at first. He can rationalize that the clones are not real; they are a higher form of robot. Killing them is not murder; it is self-protection. This may account for an early clone that was only hidden, not killed. The one not killed begins to develop a divergent personality to the point that he changes his name to Dave. This is much easier on the readers.
Dale was never high up on the economic lifestyle curve. Recovering from both alcoholism and drug abuse, he likes to revisit, only occasionally, the substances that made him feel good. He was always a borrower, never a lender, and lived life one step up from homeless. If his landlord could ever find him to collect rent, Dale could claim homeless status as well. With nothing but time on his hands for thought, it occurs to Dale that he could go back in time and discover winning lottery numbers or the winning combinations at casinos. Soon Dale is living comfortably. Until he went to the track and bet on horses. He won, but the cameras which watch us all had picked up his image and relayed it to mob-connected folks who also ran casinos. The mob put two and two together and came up with two (Dales). Stereotypical mob violence ensues and Dale’s primary defense is to clone more Dales to confuse the enemy. Conflict one.
Years earlier (refer to highlighted time frames) Dale was in love. Susannah and Dale loved each other, loved their drugs and loved monkeysex. Their relationship hit a crisis point (read the book). Susannah got past the drugs and decided to give up on Dale when it became apparent to her that Dale would never give up an exuberant lifestyle. Dale convinced himself he was still in love with Susannah and decided to use the box to start over, and over, and over. He didn’t care how much time it would take. After making lots of money, he reappeared in Susannah’s life to begin his romantic quest. Conflict two.
Finally, we come to the problem of all the dead clones. Their deaths were truly necessary because some of them didn’t want to go quietly. As new clones were created they came complete with knowledge of the entire process. The clones had perfect knowledge of Dale up to that time. The latter clones came into being knowing they were about to be terminated; some decided original Dale should be terminated instead. Conflict three (plus) because there were a lot of clones.
And then there is Detective Walter Bard. He will not let the mystery of the dead clones (plus a couple of minor characters who got in Dale’s way) become a cold case. Will he solve the case and, if so, how?
Chuck Wendig books are fun. I have yet to read any works written by his clones.