‘Q’ is at once a romance, and adventure, a sci-fi and a thriller. It’s great.
Mandery’s novel follows an unnamed hero who, at the advice of multiple future selves, changes his life path, and most importantly, changes his relationship with the ‘Q’, his girlfriend from the title. The book explores future, time itself, and the ability for time to change us. Mandery poses the question: ‘What would you do if you knew the consequences of every action?’
What’s best about ‘Q’ is that it does not take itself too seriously; Mandery mocks his own premise – ‘the universe is arbitrary’ – and the very idea of time-travel itself. At no point does Mandery’s book suggest its plot is anything new or unique. However, its playful tone sets it apart from its rivals, such as the more saccharine ‘ The Time Traveller’s Wife’ – it has a raw humour, a knowingness, and a practical, logistical view of romance. You could say it’s a romance, but for boys.
In addition to being a romance, the book is a sort of ‘growing’ story for the protagonist. ‘Q’ is a book about identity, finding and fulfilling one’s self. At one point, a future self tells our hero ‘you never achieve the recognition you hope for. You will never become a famous writer’. It is the harsh reality of life’s failures, sitting alongside the idealistic romance of fictional characters that gives this novel its tension. It’s a book about how our goals change as we get older, but our multiple selves are all a part of ourself, and a part of our journey through life.
The initial premise, the visitation of these older heroes who all look different, a bit cheesy and gimmicky, gives way to a meaningful and profound meditation on humanity and time. As the book hurtles forwards (well, mostly forwards) towards its climax, there is a dichotomy between a story’s need for a happy ending, and a sharp reality of mundanity – ‘it is palatable to simply exist’. I won’t tell you who wins out, but the finale is as dazzling, brilliant and sharp a denouement as this novel deserves.
Whilst the cover on the paperback is not up to much, don’t let that put you off – ‘Q’ is a roaring, intelligent, meditative, profound and entertaining examination of life itself – its difficulties, its storybook romances, and whether the two can ever be compatible. It is exactly the sort of book to read on the way to work – it is a joy.