by Nick Mamatas
Cover Artist: Erik Mohr
Review by Ellen Russell
ChiZine Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781926851716
Date: 14 August 2012 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Bullettime by Nick Mamatas is an interesting look into how small events can change the course of a human life. The story centers around David Holbrook and how various life events, along with the intervention of a girl named Eris, affect the events of David's life. In a post-Columbine world, it is also a window into what makes a student decide to bring a gun into his high school and open fire.
In Bullettime there are three major storylines: one in which David Holbrook brings a gun to school but doesn't kill anyone and lives an unfulfilled life as a lottery machine repairman who lives at home with his aging alcoholic mother; one in which he brings a gun to school and kills many people, going to prison and becoming the leader of a deranged killer-worshipping fanbase; and one in which he brings a gun to school and kills a few people and then goes into hiding in New York city as a street kid. However, behind each story is Eris, a high school girl that David becomes obsessed with -- also the Greek goddess of discord. Eris has taken a special interest in David and the discord that he could sow in his small corner of New Jersey.
Bullettime starts off slowly, a touch too slowly in my opinion. However, as it builds up speed it becomes more interesting. The escapist David is a relatable protagonist and his friend Tigger and love interest Eris are well fleshed-out and believable. Mamatas has an excellent grasp of what it is like to be a lonely disillusioned high school student. Furthermore, in these times of increasing gun violence, it is a sympathetic look into what might cause a student to turn to guns and violence to solve his problems.
It is the fantastic element of Eris, the goddess of discord, that turns this story of high school violence into more than that -- a discourse on possibility and what ifs. Especially fascinating is the idea that the real David, the one with agency, has been imprisoned by Eris and forced to live each path of his life, each choice, to its final conclusion.
The novel seems to take an American Gods-like view on the old pantheons -- they must evolve and move into the new world if they are to survive. Fortunately for Eris, America is full of chaos and discord.