Q, the third novel from Evan Mandery, begins with a simple premise: An unnamed narrator who is engaged to the love of his life is visited by his future self, who says the marriage is a mistake that will ruin them both.
That conflict alone is enough for an engaging and dramatic story but Mandery doesn't stop there.
Like a farcical version of A Christmas Carol, the narrator is successively visited by more versions of himself, each with a tragedy for him to dodge. One future self gives him the Graduate-esque advice to "study beavers."
While being led to and fro by his future selves--who are also constantly sticking him with the check at fancy restaurants--the narrator embarks on a long exploration of his emotional self that humorously dissects philosophy, politics and pop culture. Mandery's references to episodes of The Twilight Zone are so overt that some of the narrator's future selves point out that they are bordering on plagiarism.
Some of Q's finest moments come from the world that Mandery creates. The lovers go on a date to a Communist miniature golf course, where they can't tell their balls apart because they are both red. Organic gardeners march on New York City Hall dressed like vegetables. Time travel is used to historically manipulate the market for coffee makers. Q's New York is the sort of place one wants to live in simply to marvel at.
But what ties it all together is the relationship between the narrator and Q, which is fraught with the tension of a tragedy that hasn't actually happened and sparkles with the giddy trappings of true love. A paragraph can start on a guffaw and finish on a gut-punch. Reading Q in public is inadvisable for criers.
Q is easily Mandery's best effort yet, and it's the sort of book one dreads finishing because it may be years before an equal will be encountered.