Vortex by Jean Stites

Swept up in a mysterious cloud one gorgeous, serene night at sunset and dropped off in the middle of a crowd approximately onehundred years in the future, the narrator of Vortex, now a celebrity, struggles with the prospect of never returning to his or her (the narrator's gender is never specified, which neither adds nor subtracts from the story) previous home. Using the funds accumulated from celebrity—which occurred simply because he/she was the "first time traveler," magically dropping out of the sky from the near past—this nameless narrator attempts to recreate the "Vortex" to return home. However, the lonely accidental time traveler begins to develop feelings for the assistant hired to schedule appointments, such as with reality television shows, radio interviews, and potential financial contributors. Though the narrator continues to feel isolated and out of step with the world, some budding friendships begin to make this new place feel a bit like home.

The future of Vortex is not drastically altered, like many science fiction novels. Instead, only a few years past a time when any of the narrator's friends or family would be living, the technological advancements are created entirely for the purposes of work productivity and personal comfort or entertainment—as a matter of fact, this what one would expect of the near future. The narrator's favorite item, for example, is the "Miracle Rug," which acts as a surrogate for slippers, warming one's feet when one wakes and gets out of bed in the morning or after a few hours outside in the cold.

Conversational in tone, simultaneously playful and deep, Vortex explores the emotions elicited when human nature (love, comfort, and consistency) is disrupted. This journal-like tone leads to some long, occasionally dull passages with little to no external action, and the voice of the narrator may be a bit annoying, perhaps even boring, at first; however, if the reader decides to stick with it and delve into the emotional internal world of the narrator's mind—which is essentially the entirety of the novel—the payoff at the conclusion of the story makes it worth the read. Though the ending is not completely original—it's not where (or when) you are but who you're with—the journey toward the end is highly creative and enchanting.

Written in a diary-style, Vortex will intrigue light science fiction fans and those who enjoy character- or theme-driven novels. A very quick read, this book is not for those who require action and dynamic plots, nor those who seek fascinating technological gadgets in their sci-fi. It's not quite boring but definitely not exciting—a thought-provoking yet simple read. 


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