Elsewhen is a story about star-crossed young lovers, a love story for science fiction fans. Conceived when author/actor Gary Bullock was working at a radio astronomy site, Elsewhen follows the path of Elijah (‘Lije’) and Laura Bess, two child prodigies who fall head-over-heels in love before tragedy strikes and tears them apart. But for Lije and Laura, it seems that True Love might be able to thwart even fate…
Concepts from the more poetic end of theoretical physics are liberally peppered among the pages—musings on the directionality of time, for example—but this is by no means ‘hard’ science fiction. Scientific complexity level is about equivalent to the first Thor movie, so if you don’t know your bosons from your fermions, don’t despair.
Blending physics with a love story might seem like a difficult line to walk, but Bullock does a respectable job with his 118-page novella. Bullock’s career appears to have wended from screen writing to writing novels, and indeed, Elsewhen reads kind of like a screenplay—which I mean as both praise and as a critique.
On the side of praise, there is a good kind of inertia to the book. The plotline barrels along at a cracking pace, and given the length of the novella, it’s quite possible that you might read this cover to cover in a single night. But on the flip side, I wanted this novel to be longer. Several concepts and (particularly) characters were only loosely sketched out before the plotline whisked away to the next development.
The brevity led to my two main problems with the book. First of all, some key characters are bald rehashes of literary tropes. Some character development earlier in the novel could have, for example, fleshed out the villains in the story to make them more human and relatable.
Second, I craved more depth from the story. The many fantastical elements of the storyline open up the main characters in discussion of various concepts of philosophy and metaphysics, and I felt that more exposition here would have led to a more interesting read (and probably would have also helped with the character development problem). However, this may be less a critique of Elsewhen, and more a problem of my expectations going into this novel.
These issues aside, Elsewhen is a fun book with a clever premise. For the price of a cup of coffee, it’s easy enough to recommend for a light read.
Here’s a “trailer” for the book: