Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: relationship fiction, science fiction, science fiction romance, time travel
Published by Harlequin MIRA on January 30, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
The only thing harder than finding someone in a time loop is losing them.
Grieving her best friend's recent death, neuroscientist Mariana Pineda’s ready to give up everything to start anew. Even her career— after one last week consulting at a top secret particle accelerator.
Except the strangest thing a man stops her…and claims they've met before. Carter Cho knows who she is, why she's mourning, why she's there. And he needs Mariana to remember everything he’s saying.
Because time is about to loop.
In a flash of energy, it’s Monday morning. Again. Together, Mariana and Carter enter an inevitable life, four days at a time, over and over, without permanence except for what they share. With everything resetting—even bank accounts—joy comes in the little a delicious (and expensive) meal, a tennis match, giving a dog his favorite treat.
In some ways, those are all that matter.
But just as they figure out this new life, everything changes. Because Carter's memories of the time loop are slowly disappearing. And their only chance at happiness is breaking out of the loop—forever.
Carter Cho recognizes that he’s in a time loop. He has four days to live, over and over and over and OVER again, with no way to stop it and no way out. All he can do is watch, wait and repeat. It’s boring, it’s disheartening, it’s downright depressing. Most of all it’s terribly, terribly lonely.
Until Carter decides to take one loop and do the opposite of everything he did the first and all the subsequent, mind-numbing, heart-breaking times he’s looped before. And in that opposition he manages to convince, coerce, drag another person into the loop with him.
Dr. Mariana Pineda and technician Carter Cho are opposites in every possible way, but all they have is each other. And a seemingly endless amount of time to figure out what keeps making the Hawke Accelerator accelerate itself into a catastrophic explosion, time after time after time – and resetting the world as everyone but the two of them knows it.
Neither of them has the training or the tools to diagnose what’s going wrong – but they are all they have. And that turns out to be more than enough. Just in the nick of, well, time.
Escape Rating B+: If the blurb or the description above are making you think of the movie Groundhog Day, you are not alone. Neither was it alone in my head as I was reading my way through the first part of the story – because time travel loops have been done before.
In other words, this loop has been looped before. As they do.
At one end of that time loop story perspective there’s Groundhog Day, which has kind of a sweet ending no matter how much of an asshole the protagonist (played by Bill Murray) is as the story begins. But Carter Cho is a really nice guy – if a bit of an underachiever according to his parents – so that resemblance isn’t 100%
The ending of A Quantum Love Story, or rather, all the endings of the world before the resets, have all of the explosive punch of the movie Edge of Tomorrow, although there’s no war in Quantum.
A Quantum Love Story felt more akin to the Stargate SG-1 episode “Window of Opportunity” as following the protagonists through the loops of that journey goes through many of the same stages that Carter and Mariana go through while following characters that one really does want to follow. Also there’s no real villain in “Window of Opportunity”, which is also true in Quantum. The story, the journey, the battle if you will, is to solve the mystery and break the cycle – not to break heads.
But the chasing down of just how many different time loop stories this one brought to mind kept me from being as invested in Carter and Mariana’s problem solving through their loops, although the emotional journey they took did hold my interest even as it briefly looked like it was heading for Flowers for Algernon territory which made for some tense moments for this reader. (Don’t worry too much, it doesn’t go there, but there were a few bits that just about gave me the weepies when it looked that way. Howsomever, the author has form for this, as that’s part of the direction that his lovely Light Years from Home went.)
The heart of the story, and it very much does have one, is in the relationship between Carter and Mariana, who begin as opposites in just about every sense of the word and bond through shared trauma. But what they discover through that sharing is that their version of opposites attract brings out the best in both of them, and that there are possibilities in life that neither of them ever imagined.
Including the possibility of a happy ever after with someone that they would otherwise never have had a chance to meet. A chance that will be whisked away if they ever manage to solve the problem and stop the resets.
The solution to both problems, to the endless resets of the time loop and to stopping those resets, turns out to be exactly the same thing. With one surprising and beautiful deus ex machina of an exception.
Ultimately, the repeating time loops with their repeating reminders of other time loop stories is both a bit of a bug AND a feature. After all this is a story about things repeating until they don’t, so it seems right that they kind of do. In the end I was charmed by the story and the characters as they worked through both repeating and not repeating time at the same time.
I’ll certainly be repeating my exploration of this author’s work and his signature combination of science fiction and relationship fiction with his next outing, hopefully this time next year. In the meantime, if you are intrigued by this review, check out the first chapter excerpt I posted last week. If you like SF with just a touch of romance and a heaping helping of relationship building and problem solving, you just might fall in love with A Quantum Love Story!