A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews

K.P. Kyle’s debut novel Sync is the first of three novel-length works that I’ll be looking at in this series. Published by Allium Press, in 2019, Kyle offers the story of Brigid, who picks up a hitchhiker on a cold, rainy night in New England and she drives home to Boston. Although Jason doesn’t smell very good and seems to be suffering from paranoia, Brigid invites him to spend the night at her apartment so he can get cleaned up and get a good night’s sleep before getting on a train for somewhere.

When a burglar breaks into Brigid’s home that evening, she and Jason go on the lam, trying to avoid the men who apparently actually are after Jason. Jason also reveals his secret to Brigid. He was part of an experiment that allows him to temporarily jump from one reality to another, although the process leaves him naked.

Sync

The attempted burglary brings Brigid to the attention of the Boston police who know she isn’t being entirely truthful with them and Jason’s presence appears to have alerted the FBI, who are also on his trail. After Jason is kidnapped, Brigid makes her way to Chicago to try to enlist the help of the woman who started the experiments on Jason before she was unceremoniously removed from the project.

The story alternates between Brigid’s point of view and Jason’s point of view, with Brigid serving as the reader’s entry into Kyle’s world and offering views of herself and Jason. Jason has the knowledge of the lab he escaped from and the experiments which were conducted on him. Although they contributed to his sense of paranoia, he doesn’t focus on them, so Kyle is able to keep a certain amount of mystery to the question of what is really happening. The switching back and forth occasionally produces a slightly disjointed narrative, but given the theme of moving between realities, that strengthens the mood of the novel.

Although Jason’s situation takes a certain amount of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, Kyle handles the way Brigid gets pulled in over her head quite believably. While all too often, a character in Brigid’s role would have to act irrationally in order to move the plot forward, Kyle has made sure that if Brigid acts rationally, the plot will move forward. Ana Hernandez, the lab’s originally owner, seems too good to be true and her replacement at the lab, Wilders, is just missing a pencil-thin moustache to twirl to be a melodrama villain.

Sync is the story of multiple realities, but Kyle does very little with them. The experimental subjects, with one exception, don’t have the ability to control when they jump, let alone where. When reality targeting is introduced, the mechanism is never explained to either the characters or the readers. Jason’s ultimate target alternative is predictable and his reaction to achieving it seems like an almost childlike petulance which undermines the relationship that has driven him through most of the novel.

There are times the novel is almost overwhelmed by a simplicity, even as Kyle and her characters are dealing with the complexity of a conspiracy. Kyle also obliquely raises issues of Stockholm syndrome, but doesn’t follow up on them. The result is that while the novel moves along well, in the end it leaves the reader feeling slightly dissatisfied.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a twenty-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for eight years. He has also edited books for DAW, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference six times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.

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