Short Stories 366:63 — “Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic,” by Nick Carr

coverSometimes I hit a rut in audiobooks where even though I might be enjoying a few collections at once (as is almost always the case) and have a few full-length audiobook novels by authors I adore performed by performers I always find good I just can’t quite bring myself to click the play button and move forward. Instead, I walk the dog in silence (which is when I listen to most of my audiobooks) or I put on some music instead. It doesn’t tend to last long, this “pause,” but when it does, I’m always a bit out of sorts.

“Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic,” got me back into the audio groove when I hit one of those odd slump-pauses. And the vast majority of that is solely thanks to William Jackson Harper, who narrated this YA novella to sheer freaking perfection. If you kinda-sorta recognize the name, it’s likely because William Jackson Harper is the actor who plays Chidi Anagonye on The Good Place. His tone, effusive portrayal of confusion, amusement, joy, and sarcasm, and his generally amazing cadence, brings Wally Roux, the teenage protagonist of “Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic” to vibrant life.

Wally is having some problems. Some of them are typical: he doesn’t feel like he fits in, he’s not sure his mother quite “gets” what life is like for him (a problem compounded by his adopted state), he doesn’t want to ride the bus to his elite school… y’know, stuff. Oh, and also there’s something wrong with the space-time continuum, because when he walks to school it’s uphill in both directions. What follows is a story about a freaking genius boy—who isn’t necessarily anywhere near as genius when it comes to talking with other people—trying to (a) stabilize quantum reality, (b) figure out this whole teenage stuff stuff, and (c) perhaps slip into a parallel world where things are different for some perspective. It’s deftly written, in broad strokes that sometimes only hint at deeper hurts, but it never feels shallow despite the brevity or the sometimes irreverent tone.

And, like I said, it totally got me out of my funk.

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