In the Present Tense


In the Present TenseTitle: In the Present Tense
Author: Carrie Pack
Publisher: Interlude Press
Release Date: May 19th, 2016
Genre(s): Romance, Sci-Fi
Page Count: 336
Reviewed by: PrinCkhera
Heat Level: 0 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Blurb:

Miles Lawson goes to sleep dreaming of a future with his boyfriend Adam, but wakes to find he is married to Ana, an acquaintance from high school. When he learns he has been time traveling, Miles is consumed with finding a cure for his rare condition and finding his first love. Traveling more frequently, Miles assembles the puzzle pieces of his life and, in doing so, alienates his wife. As he loses control, Miles must realize that sometimes fixing your past mistakes means changing your future. But will he be able to convince Adam he is telling the truth before it’s too late?

Before reading this review: Even though I’m going to complain about the climax and the ending please do note that there is a sequel in the works and I am going to avidly be looking on the author’s website for any and all updates because I need to know what’s happened/happening/will happen because this was amazing regardless of my frustration at not knowing (which is also an aspect of the book that I highly valued while simultaneously disliked – it’s a love/hate relationship I’ve gotten somewhat comfortable with). Just needed to make that clear in case the review failed to carry over everything I tried to put into words. Also – the spoiler tag at the end really does mean spoiler so do not open it unless you’ve read the book because I basically spoiler tagged every question I was left with in the end. As well as my frustration. Because, this book rides on its slow but steady revelations, please do not read them unless you want to spoil the ride for yourself. SPOILER Tagged means SPOILER tagged.

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Thank You.

This book was like listening to Flight of the Bumblebee: Gripping as well as over way too soon.

That little interlude always captures my attention completely, but because it’s so short (it is an interlude, after all) it’s over just like that.

That’s what this book felt like to me. It held me entranced, but I couldn’t read it in one sitting. I had this sense of foreboding throughout that never really went away, even now that this book is over – it doesn’t feel like it is.

Looking at it objectively, if that’s it for the ending? Then this book built all this anticipation for nothing. Well, not nothing. But, not something that compares to what the rest of the book has done to keep the reader on their toes.

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I think Ms. Pack has the potential to reinvigorate an underrated genre within MM romance. Frankly because sci-fi stories, with intriguing plot lines that involve a LGBTQIA relationship are few and far between even though lately that’s changing quite rapidly, I’ll focus on its role within MM romance though because that’s (one of) the relationships relevant at hand.

This book reminded me of The Fifteen Lives of Harry August, a book I started reading earlier this year. Namely, a method of time-travel that uses the human body, or rather the mind. The concept is so fascinating, and there is much that can be explored using this that I couldn’t resist requesting this book when I saw it.

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Here, the time-travel in question is quite confusing. And trying to figure it out is where the fun lies (in part). When Miles blacks out, he wakes up as a different version of himself at another point (and age) in his life. The story focuses on his 25 year old self, a point in time where he is happily married and in love with Ana while simultaneously trying to figure out a cure to his time-travelling. Whenever he time-travels now though, it’s typically his 17 year old self showing up. A version of himself when he was still under the impression he was gay, as well as hopelessly and madly in love with Adam, 25YO Miles’s ex-boyfriend. 17YO Miles, whenever he shows up, puts 25YO Miles life into upheaval by bringing 25YO Adam back into his life. This younger version, still in love, hasn’t been betrayed by Adam yet and cannot comprehend a point in his life where Adam wouldn’t be there for him.

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If that confuses you, keep in mind that it’s only the beginning of a long and confusing journey.

Something written in the science-fiction genre, but with an MM subplot, has a tendency to start giving one importance over the other and it’s usually the MM romance. I feel as though this is such a shame because the whole “MM-ness” of a book shouldn’t overshadow the actual mind-fuckery that the author is weaving. Because then there are too many loose ends, and the world you’re creating tends to be inconsequential and the reader’s left wondering, why even bother?

Here, though… I didn’t really have that sense.

Yes, the romance plot is there, but that is just a part of it. There’s the relationship between 25YO Miles and Ana which seems so happy, and then there’re the flashbacks displaying 17YO Miles and 17YO Adam falling in love. I was wondering how the author was going to proceed with these relationships that get entangled when 17YO Miles shows up and contacts 25YO Adam (who by now is engaged and in love with someone else). I was wondering because these grown up versions seem perfectly happy in their respective relationships, and what consequences 17YO Miles’s decisions would have.

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At least his bi-sexuality isn’t treated as a joke. Both the relationship between Miles and Ana as well as Miles and Adam are two separate, but functioning (sort of), entities.

Parallel to this whole relationship drama that is definitely present, is the idea of time-travel and figuring out what’s going on. The latter even more because frankly, I was caught wondering whether I could even trust what I was reading. The sanity of our protagonist, Miles, is put into question, and I have been led astray in stories long and often enough to distrust a character who can’t even trust his own thoughts and starts thinking of his ability as a disorder. Or a manifestation of a disorder, and therefore not actually real. Then there are the flashbacks, sporadic though they may be, showcasing the trauma Miles acquired. Constantly, I was caught wondering whether it’s actual time-travel or mental illness.

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I had to think long and hard about what to say regarding this book because on the one hand, this is such a fascinating addition to the genre. But, on the other, that ending left me underwhelmed. My brain felt as though it was working in overdrive, thoughts going in one direction and then the other. I loved every moment of it. I love books that can do that to you, undo your thoughts. Make you think you’re getting somewhere and then confuse the fuck out of you by bringing another piece in and welcoming you back to square one. However, as much as I loved this process of being messed with, it was over too soon.

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The ending felt lackluster. The supposed climax, didn’t feel as though it was what it was. Just imagine, you have a story in which a million and one things are happening, and then you don’t get answers. You get something abrupt, and relatively to your mindset throughout the book, ordinary… How would that make you feel? And then take into consideration my mindset. I do not trust the sanity of the main character. For all I know, this could be Fight Club all over again. I am suspicious as hell, and if that’s it for the ending? Then what?

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It made me unable to write this review until I’d given the book some distance over the course of a few days, and it made me immediately send a shout-out to the author asking whether she plans on writing a sequel (because I would really really like one). And she said that there is a sequel in the works for which I am so fucking grateful, because that was not enough for me (as I’m sure it’ll be for every other person reading this book).

Mindfuckery at its… Not exactly finest, because maybe it was just me who thought the whole ordeal suspicious. But, just think Fight Club. It happens.

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I was so damn suspicious, that even though I was given an ending I’m still left with questions. I still wonder, is time-travel even real? Is this just his mental illness running amock? Is Bethany even real? Is he even married? What if Adam’s a figment of his imagination?

It’s just. Just. Miss Pack leaves us hanging.

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There’re a lot of threads without end, a lot of questions unanswered.

But, if I leave my own confusion behind. The way time-travel is portrayed in this book is both unique and definitely worth exploring more.

On its own this book would have been, despite my distaste for both the climax and the ending, an intriguing addition to the sci-fi genre. However, because there is a sequel in the works I can’t say I’m too disappointed on how Ms. Pack decided to fuck with us and leave us hanging off a cliff. Because, now? I am so keeping an eye on when the next book will be coming out.

Obviously, I wholeheartedly recommend this book just because once in a while (or more if you’re lucky), you should have a book that messes with you both emotionally and mentally.

Now I’m just going to be all maudlin and shit until the next book comes out.

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Spoiler
Sorry – the messiness of this particular part of my review is just to reflect the turmoil in my head… Yeah. Let’s go with that.

The whole scene between Adam and Miles? Too much.

It felt way too easy, even if it was anything but. That ticket stub Adam found “proving” Anthony’s possible involvement? Convenient.

It seems as though this conspiracy runs its paws through their whole lives, if it’s even real, and that every single person is somehow affected by it. But affected how?

I was expecting some sort of climax. I was expecting Adam to turn around, and have been a part of the whole conspiracy plot. Or maybe, Bethany. Or Ana! Okay, maybe not Ana. But, still. Maybe even John?

The fact of the matter is. I didn’t trust any one of these characters. I repeat. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Especially Miles.

What did Doctor Brenagan and Benson tell Ana to convince her to call in her husband? Where the fuck is Bethany? I was half expecting Michaela to have been in on it too. How does Darius play into this? Ana’s cheated on Miles! Consequences?!

We’re given clues into ChronoCorp and Tempus Labs, and the truth behind the facade of the rehabilitation facility. But, they weren’t nearly enough.

The climax also felt kind of like a movie. It would work in a movie, the way Miles and Bethany escape from that place and get John (killed? knocked unconscious? by his dad), the way Adam comes to save him just in time and they escape and Ana’s already been cheating on him and blah blah blah but it felt so OTT in comparison to the rest of the book. The pacing felt really really off, even though I get that it was the climax, it’s supposed to be like that. It just didn’t work very well. 

But OMG! If the time-travel is seriously connected to the mental illnesses that the patient had respectively?

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My frustration with the climax and the ending shouldn’t detract from the story though, because we do learn, in part, as we go through the story what’s actually happening. But I’m just greedy, and I want more. I wanted it yesterday, and the day before that – all the way back to when I was still reading this book and nearing the end and already had the suspicion that I was going to be left with questions (that needed answers).

Give this book a shot if you don’t mind your mind being played around with like a cat with its toy.

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NetGalley copy of In the Present Tense provided by Interlude Press in exchange of an honest review.

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