Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


Nathan has loved his best friend, Cam, for a long time. So much so that when a drunk driver slammed into them a few years ago, Cam came away from the ordeal without a scratch, thanks to Nathan’s talent. Talent users have the ability to heal, to fight, to do any number of superhuman things. Unfortunately, all of Nathan’s talent was focused on keeping Cam safe…which left Nathan partially paralyzed. Despite his long-standing love, Nathan is convinced any chance at a romance with Cam is completely out of the question now. In fact, Nathan is convinced that super attractive, funny, brilliant Cam only stays friends with him out of habit. Or worse, pity. So Nathan grudgingly only allows friendship. Recently, however, even that starts to wear thin for two reasons. First, Nathan suspects Cam is consciously or subconsciously sabotaging any potential romantic encounters for the sake of his friendship with Nathan; and second, Nathan starts to suffer blinding pain and loss of consciousness due to dangerous spikes in his talent and Nathan refuses to let his talent even accidentally hurt Cam.

Cam can’t let go of Nathan. Least of all now, when Nathan is showing signs of his talent breaking his mind. If Cam could just get Nathan to see the doctor who specializes in talent-related disorders, he’s sure the whole thing could get worked out. Except the seizure-like episodes Nathan suffers include painfully lucid, but completely out of step comments. Like Nathan referring to himself in the third person and asking why his legs don’t work, or insisting Cam use his own nonexistent talent to contact another Cam, or telling Cam to talk to his mother who has been dead for ten years. Scared and confused, Cam does the only thing he thinks can help: calling his father, a retired military colonel and one of the most revered talent users on the planet. Before long, Cam and Nathan learn about a years-defunct military project. Soon, it becomes clear that there is a direct link between Nathan’s seizures and this project. But will Nathan, Cam, and the Colonel be able to figure out the link before it’s too late?

Relativity is book one in the Lateral Parallax series from authors Carole Cummings and Andrew Q. Gordon. It’s a science fiction story, with a slight side of unrequited love between our two main characters, Nathan and Cam. It’s told in third-person omniscient, largely from Nathan’s perspective. This allowed the authors to really delve deep into Nathan’s belief that his disability and his continuing friendship with Cam is holding Cam back. We also get to see how deeply guilty Nathan feels about that continuing friendship. Nathan assumes the popular, attractive, sporty Cam only stays friends with him out of guilt. This gets compounded because Nathan knows his prickly personality, ready to push away any and all offers of help on principle, does not make it easy to be friends with him. Nathan is also keen to maintain physical barriers in addition to social ones. And all of this is meant to be altruistic. Nathan believes that sacrificing himself is the best way to save Cam, regardless of what Cam wants.

Cam wants to be Nathan’s friend, and maybe more. The government military program gives Cam and Nathan (and all the other supporting characters) insight into what their lives might have been like in other realities. The specific universe with which they interact features a Nathan without injury, who is both a star Marine and engaged to Cam. There is a lot of angst for Nathan as all his fears about being not enough for Cam seem to come to life. He tries to pull away, to sacrifice himself to “save” Cam or at least remove Nathan from the picture. All of this is driven by the fact that the talent Nathan has (in this, the other, and several more universes) allows the Nathan in this book to basically share a consciousness and memories with the other Nathan. Cam doesn’t get this kind of input, but he does spend a very eventful time working with the Marine Nathan, which also proves to be eye-opening. All in all, it’s clear that Nathan bears tremendous unrequited love for Cam, but Cam is trying to just be the kind of friend Nathan seems to want (very hands off, physically and emotionally). It all creates a slow burn that doesn’t start to kindle until after the big climax.

A very big aside from the drama of discovering parallel universes and damaged friendships is the relationship Cam has with his father. This was well explained and developed in the story. Cam has a twin sister, who has a lot of talent, and Cam long resented how much attention his sister got from their father. He felt neglected, even though he understood having talent and learning to use it were very time consuming. Later, he learns exactly why their father needed to spend so much time with his sister. It goes a ways towards mitigating hard feelings, but there are plenty of opportunities for Cam and his father to rebuild bridges without using the excuse of Cam’s sister’s needs. I thought it was wonderful to see this young man grapple with the fact that his father is more than the mythical hero so many know him as.

And when all is said and done, there is a good “happy for now” ending that still leaves a lot to explore for any future installments. The authors laid terrific groundwork for a world that has this concept of talent and multiple dimensions. Nathan and Cam are on the road to getting closer, exploring a budding romantic connection. But much of their security comes from the fact that after the events of this story, they both qualify to be drafted into the army. The one critique I’d have about this book is how loosely the authors describe the war in the book. It’s clear that there is one, that it demands anyone with talent be tested and anyone who tests over 20 be auto-drafted. But beyond it being an interminable war, not much was shared about why the two sides are fighting, or even a sense of which side is “right.” Clearly, I’d instinctively assume Nathan and Cam’s side is right, but there are no details. Yet this war is going to consume the next however many years of the MCs’ lives, and it’s what drove the research into other universes, so it was a little disappointing to not have a clearer idea about what was at stake.

All in all, I thought Relativity was a delightfully entertaining, sweeping sci-fi story. Nathan and Cam are at the heart of things, going through the growing pains of a friendship deeply affected by an accident and both of them still struggling to come to terms with the fall out even years later. The parallel universes idea was beautifully worked into the plot. It seemed like every element of the story complemented the others, coming together is a suspenseful, satisfying whole. If you like super slow burns, stories featuring characters with special abilities, or MCs with disabilities, slow burns, or friends-to-lovers, then I think you’ll enjoy this book.