Inside Niagara

BOOKENDS REVIEW: Nick Mamatas' Bullettime


Imagine if you couldn’t live your own life, but instead had to watch over it from above. You would have no control over the decisions you make. In fact, you would watch an endless cycle of possible routes your life could take depending on those decisions.

It would be exasperating, as it is for Dave Holbrook - at least for the version of Dave Holbrook who is stuck in “Ylem” in Nick Mamatas’ Bullettime.

Mamatas doesn’t go into a detailed explanation of Ylem, but you can imagine it as your soul hovering above the world as life unfolds. Below, various versions of Dave go through life, making one bad decision after another.

Dave Holbrook is a teenager who lives with abusive, alcoholic, adulterous parents. When he leaves his crazy household for school, he’s bullied, beaten, called a fag, and worse. In fact, each one of Dave’s “lives” is quite depressing. There doesn’t seem to be a happy ending.

There’s a version of Dave who is an imprisoned murderer. There’s a version who gets away from police. There’s a version who has never killed anyone.

Many of Dave’s problems seem to be caused by a girl he meets in high school. Her name is Erin. Or is she Eris, the goddess of discord and chaos?

And the question becomes whether he, the guardian-angel-like Dave, can escape the endless cycle and live his own life.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Bullettime is part science-fiction.

The trouble with having so many versions of Dave Holbrook is that you never seem to get attached to any of them, which is crucial when it comes to the main character. I feel like there should be another 200 pages with more details on the characters and Ylem. But at least I want more, not less, of Mamatas! It’s an interesting book for fans of sci-fi or the unusual.

Bullettime was published by a fantastic little company called ChiZine. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, horror, dark fiction, the macabre or anything unique, try any of their books. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

Here are two other ChiZine books from this past year that I would recommend:

The Steel Seraglio by Mike, Linda and Louise Carey

David Nickle’s Rasputin’s Bastards


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