If you had the power to change the future, would you? What choices would you make, what wishes would you chose to make come true? These are the sorts of questions that face teenager Ephraim Scott in the engrossing, page-turning initial novel of his Urban Fantasy/SF “Coin” series, Fair Coin.
Nobody’s life is perfect, including Ephraim’s. While there’s not much that most people can do to change their lives for the better, at least not almost instantaneously, all of us sometimes find ourselves wishing for things like a major test being postponed, beating up the school bully, or becoming more popular overnight. When sixteen-year-old Ephraim’s alcoholic mother overdoses on pills and liquor and almost dies, it’s just one more stark reminder to him of how his life sucks compared to everyone else’s he knows.
Except for the fact that this time, he’s given the opportunity to make his life better. If only he makes the right choices, that is, and what he chooses doesn’t adversely effect anything or anyone else’s life. It all rests on the flip of a coin…but not every flip is guaranteed to improve a person’s life. Some have very…disastrous results.
Ephraim discovers on the second-to-last day of school, when he gets home, that his Mom has passed out from a combination of pills and alcohol. She thinks when she sees him that it’s her imagination, or that he’s a ghost. The ambulance gets her to the hospital in time to save her life, but Ephraim learns that there is a reason why she tried to take her own life: she had been told that Ephraim was dead by someone at the hospital, and she’d been asked to I.D. the body of her son.
The boy’s body was burned beyond recognition, but he had been wearing exactly the same sort of clothes that Ephraim wore, and he’d been wearing the same brand of watch, and even had Ephraim’s library card in a wallet very much like Ephraim’s. And, he had with him a very unique coin, a quarter commemorating the vote that made Puerto Rico a state in 1998. However, though the population of Puerto Rico had voted on whether to stay a territory or become a state in 1998, in Epraim’s reality, it had remained a territory.
Ephraim reasons that the coin must have been struck accidentally, and at most, was a curiosity. It might be rare enough to be worth something to collectors, but it was still just a quarter, and nothing more. But, Ephraim does something he thinks is kind of silly: he flips the coin, and wishes his Mom was healthy and not in the hospital. He had stayed with his Mom at the hospital all that night, and then went to school on the final day of classes, but only because his Mom had woken up and insisted that he go.
At the high school, we are then introduced to other characters, like Nathan, one of Ephraim’s best friends, Jenna, a pretty girl he has a crush on, and the sisters Mary and Shelley, whom their parents named after Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. That Myers references Frankenstein alone was something I thought was cool about the novel, and that it reminded me of the Ashton Kutcher movie, The Butterfly Effect.
That last day, Ephraim’s friend, Nathan, takes a series of pictures to document the momentous occasion. Certain things happen that are very…unusual, like Nathan beating up the guy who’s been bullying him in a dramatic fight–though, when Ephraim mentions it to him later, Nathan tells him it didn’t happen, that the bully had locked him in his own locker and he couldn’t get out for an hour, until a teacher finally heard his cries for help. Also, when Ephraim looks at the photos Nathan took later, some seem to be missing.
He gets home and finds his mother there waiting for him with no recollection of having ever overdosed and spent time at the hospital. Things seem to be going good for Ephraim for the first time in a long time, but with every flip of the coin, for every potentially beneficial outcome, there is also the possibility that the flip might result in a very bad outcome. And, when Nathan learns about the power of the coin, his life also changes….
Fair Coin is not so much a novel about time travel as it is one that explores the infinite alternate realities that quantum physicists have posited exist. If these alternate realities are as real as ours, and we could travel between them, would we want to, once we found out how different each was? Our lives might be better in some ways, but possibly at the expense of the happiness of the lives of others. And, what would happen if we decided to make yet one more thing “better,” and flipped the coin one more time–and then, another, and another.
Fair Coin is a very promising start to E.C. Myer’s “Coin” series. It will keep you turning pages until late into the night. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more books Myers has written in the series as they come out. He’s an excellent author, and if you have ever wondered to yourselves “What if?” about things you wished were different in your lives, Fair Coin is a book you’ll love reading.