Sunday, March 13, 2016

Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau (2016)

My friend Monique is one of the first people I met when I moved to Austin in 2000. We were both starting library school at the same time, and my tall lady radar immediately picked her out at the orientation. Later, Dr. M and I ran into her in line for an Austin Film Society screening at the Dobie theater (Godard, I think). We kept in touch a little in person and mostly through the internet as I followed her journey as a novelist, her move to Ann Arbor to get her MFA, and her fulfillment of a lifelong dream to move to Portland. And then, this happened: actual publication of her debut novel by a real life publisher. Book tour (see my pictures of the Austin stop at BookPeople here)! Translation into numerous languages! Audio book! I'm so proud of her, and I know the amount of work behind this well-deserved attention. Way to go, Mo!

To top it all off, the book really is great. After about 20 pages, I completely forgot that my friend had written it. At the book signing, Mo noted that her goal was to write a feminist novel with a male protagonist, and she definitely succeeded at that. Karl Bender is a 40-year-old who owns a bar in Chicago. He used to be the guitar player for Axis, a moderately successful band in the 90s. And he has discovered a time-traveling worm hole in his closet. Along with his friend Wayne, a computer programmer that helps set up the wormhole infrastructure, he decides that the best use of the portal is to travel back to rock shows in the past. Soon he and Wayne are selling tickets and sending people back to relive their own history as well as the shows they never had a chance to see. Everything is going great until Karl accidentally sends Wayne back to the year 980 instead of 1980 (typo!) and there isn't enough extant electricity in pre-European Manhattan to get Wayne back.

Karl contacts the coolest looking person in a nearby astrophysics department, Lena Geduldig, to help him bring his best friend back to the present. She is smart, dry, tattooed, and guarded. Karl falls for her instantly and, eventually, she kind of falls for him too. 

The novel eventually spins into a mixture of science-fiction tinged romance and music tinged emotion. While a love for and knowledge of time-travel tropes, alternative music, Sassy Magazine, and 90s-era feminism certainly enhance the experience of the narrative, everything is so nicely balanced that even someone who dislikes all the above couldn't help but be drawn into Karl and Lena's world. I'm a person who is often disappointed by endings, but the climax of the novel is just perfect. 

Also, can we take a second to marvel at the cover? I can't get enough of high-quality book design.
So go get yourself to your nearest independent bookstore (or, you know, click on it in Amazon Prime, no judgement here). BookPeople in Austin is even selling a deluxe version that includes a limited-edition Axis poster and pin! However you get it, just go ahead and get it. This is one that is worth having in hardcover and dipping into right away.

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