Two books caused quite a disagreement among our reviewers this month: ‘To the Survivors’ and this one ‘Here & There’. The controversy revolved around whether they were Best or Worst! Some reviewers considered ‘Here & There’ to be a masterpiece written outside of the box, while others saw it as bloated, wordy, and incredibly boring. With no consensus on the horizon, the Editor had to weigh in.
Clearly the book has some, shall we say, unusual aspects. We’ve read some ‘wordy’ books before, but this one could be a champion of wordiness. The book is 634 pages and we can only guess that the author, Joshua V. Scher, just enjoys seeing his words appear on the page because, unfortunately, a good percentage of those words have nothing to do with the actual story (we think) he is trying to tell. For example, (and this is just one of many, many, many) – the protagonist / narrator consumes five or six pages trying to impress some girls in a bar with his (fake) tale of being a smoke jumper in the Pacific Northwest. This has absolutely nothing to do with the story of a scientist and his family who vanished in a scientific experiment. To make matters worse there are vast swatches of actual gibberish that are supposed to be some code. You see, the story is unique in that it is told from the perspective of a son trying to learn about his mother through her notes of her investigation into the disappearance of a scientist and his family. And there are LOTS of conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies and spying.
The idea behind the story is fascinating, but having to wade through all the chaff to get there can be tedious and often boring—or strangely fascinating and exciting, depending on your point of view. This aspect is what divided our reviewers. The book could literally been edited in half and the core story would remain intact. And that story is quite enthralling. Sometimes humorous, sometimes creepy, often inexplicable, it makes you feel as if you are on the inside of a humanity changing event.
The core of the story is about teleportation: All the theories (some logical, some outlandish), experiments, all the failures, all the partial successes, interwoven with an odd family dynamic of a brilliant scientist, his wife, and twin boys. Mixed in with this is a healthy dose of quantum physics that sounds legitimate (i.e. quark echoes) but when researched yielded nothing, so who knows. Certain key facts and elements are revealed in sometimes casual ways, so if you’re inclined to skip over sections (or blink) you may miss a critical revelation. One concerning the twin boys was literally mind blowing, so watch for it.
The style of writing can be jarring one section and astonishing the next, sprinkled liberally with wit and creepiness, and then in the end outright horror. At times it worked very well, often it didn’t. In fact, after the book ends, it keeps going! As if the author just couldn’t bring himself to say goodbye. However this book is so audacious in its conception and execution we have to come down on the side of a ‘Best’ rating. If you’re willing to take the plunge, make the commitment, steel yourself with lots of patience, it’s a damned frustrating but wildly interesting ride.