Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

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Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A story of time travel, but not really sci-fi, this is more about family, life, and loss, and how far you'd go to spend just a little more time with someone you love.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: February 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1471188664

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Faye lost her mum when she was very young. She was raised by some elderly neighbours after her mum died from a cold that got worse, and although they were kind and very good to her she of course missed her mum enormously. So when, unexpectedly, she discovers a time travel conduit (via an old space hopper box in her attic) that takes her back to the 70's and her mum, she revels in the chance to create some memories and get to know the woman who meant so much to her. The time travelling, however, is neither easy nor safe, and Faye fears that her husband won't believe what's happening and so lies to him instead. The lies grow more tangled, and Faye begins to wonder if it's safe for her to return one last time to the past. Should she try to see her mum one last time before her mum's death, or will it change her own future forever to attempt it?

Although this story is about time travel, I don't think I'd really class it as science fiction. Time travel clearly fits the bill, but I think if you were looking for a sci-fi novel you'd be disappointed with this one as it's more of a family drama than a sci-fi story. Using a space hopper box as the time travel ‘machine' is faintly ridiculous, and yet I have to admit that I bought into it! I wasn't quite so certain, once the box began to get a bit damaged, that it would continue to work, but work it did. And I really liked the fact that Faye's time travelling was really awful - violent, and painful, and dangerous. It made it feel more real, somehow, than the easy trips that characters in stories often seem to make from one timeline to another. I liked the sense of risk about her travelling, and that it added an uneasy weight of uncertainty as to what Faye should do.

Time travel can be difficult, because of changes to timelines and which bit affects what and whether anything still hangs together afterwards. This story does pretty well, and although I'd wondered if the twist might be what had happened, I hadn't actually expected it to go ahead, and so I was still surprised when it came.

I also really liked Faye's friend Louis in the book. He is blind, and Faye knows him through her work for the RNIB. Louis is an interesting and funny character, and I enjoyed his interactions with Faye. I was less sure about Faye's perfect family. Her husband is so nice. A bit too nice, really. I almost cheered when he finally lost his temper with her because really, he was far too patient with her until then, considering how much, and how obviously she was lying to him! I didn't really believe that if they had such a perfect marriage that she really would have lied to him.

I also wasn't always sure I liked Faye, and so that tinged my feelings about the story at times. The religious discussion was also slightly awkward - I grew up in a Christian family, so it wasn't that I was uncomfortable reading it. It was more that it felt non-committal. Faye doesn't believe, but her husband is training to be a vicar, and it felt like the author was sitting on the fence somewhat with ideas of faith and belief, so that the Christianity felt wishy-washy, which it shouldn't have. The story can be a little slow in places. It takes a while for anything to actually happen, and there were moments when I wanted to nudge the story along a little faster. And I also have issues about the part with Elizabeth Kent, as I wasn't always sure that that side of things hung together, because how did Faye know so much about her life, and yet then Elizabeth had no idea who Faye was when she meets her in her shop in the current timeline? I know, you haven't read it yet so you don't know who Elizabeth is. I can't say more without spoilers really, but that just niggled at me, even after I had finished the story.

Still, putting those things aside, I really liked reading about Faye meeting her mother and herself as a child, and overall it was an enjoyable read that kept me turning the pages until the end. I'm interested to see where Helen Fisher goes next with her writing, since this did feel like something a bit different for a first novel, and hopefully her next book will be just as enjoyable, and a bit tighter in style too.

Further Reading: You might like to try The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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