Saturday, January 28, 2017

Three Years with the Rat

Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking
St. Martin's Press: 1/24/17
eBook review copy: 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250116307

Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking is a highly recommended debut genre-bending novel about a young man looking for his sister.

The unnamed narrator in Three Years with the Rat is called by various nicknames, Grace's little brother, Scruffy by a friend, and Danger by his new Toronto girlfriend, Nicole (or Trouble.) When our narrator, an underachiever with no real life goals, moves to Toronto where Grace and John, her boyfriend, live, he meets their friends and is included in their social circle. Grace is graduate student in psychophysics. She and John are working on a project involving rats and "subjective time."

When John and Grace's landlord calls and wants him to clean out their apartment because they are gone, our narrator discovers in their apartment a handmade wooden box big enough to crawl inside and lined with mirrors, Buddy the rat, a notebook written in code, and a note that says: This is the only way back for us. Now he must unravel what they did and how to get them back. He knows that somehow Buddy can disappear and travel back and forth between wherever space the box leads to and where our narrator lives.

The narrative jumps back and forth in time over the three years in the title, 2006-2008, so readers will want to pay attention to what year they are in which is noted at the start of each chapter. That doesn't mean you will understand everything that is happening during that timeline, but eventually more and more information is revealed that will help you later. This shifting chronology makes the presentation feel fragmented, so you will have to overcome this as you are reading.

The novel itself has elements of science fiction, a mystery, suspense/horror, and magic realism. It is definitely not straight science fiction. The writing is good. Characters aren't as well developed as I prefer so I was never fully invested in what happens to them, and the dialogue is awkward. While the narrator seeks answers about where his sister and John went, he is also seeking answers about what happened with his relationship with Nicole, and he's trying to care for Buddy.

All this seems like I might rate Three Years with the Rat lower, but I was intrigued by the idea and was able to overlook some elements of the presentation to get to the end of the story. It's not fully resolved, but enough for closure. Additionally, I was eager to read what happened next and thought about Three Years with the Rat after I was finished with the novel. 3.5 rounded up.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

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