Book Review: The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Literature
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Paperback: March 8, 2016)
Length: 352 pages
I knew before starting The Lost Boys Symphony that it would not an easy book to review, and now that I have read it, I find I am no closer to figuring out how to put my thoughts into words. What I do know is that when it comes to the prevalent theme of time traveling in sci-fi, few books these days can still make me see the subject in a different light—but this one did. Making a home for itself in that narrow niche between the literary and the speculative, this book probably isn’t going to be for everyone, but I personally enjoyed it a lot.
Time travel stories, by their nature, are not easy to describe. The Lost Boys Symphony presents an even greater challenge because it is unlike any time travel story I have ever read before. On the surface, the focus is on the lives of three friends: Henry, Gabe, and Val. Henry and Gabe have known each other since they were children. In high school they meet Val, and Henry starts dating her. The three have been inseparable ever since.
Partway through college, however, Val suddenly decides to break up with Henry and transfers to another school. Understandably heartbroken, Henry immerses himself in his other passion, music, while Gabe stands by and offers whatever support he can. But then Henry gets sick. Very sick. And his illness is manifesting in very strange ways, making him hear things and see things that he knows should be impossible. Searching for answers, Henry follows Val to New York City, but then ends up passing out on the George Washington Bridge. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a room with two strangers—but in truth, they aren’t strangers at all. They are him, Henry, at 41 and 80. His future selves have kidnapped the 19-year-old him to give him a message, placing several lifetimes of responsibility on his troubled young shoulders.
Rather than summarizing the book though, it might actually be more helpful to describe its themes, like the disillusionment of youth, the lasting regrets for the paths taken and not taken, not to mention the devastating effects of mental illness—for those who suffer from it as well as for their loved ones. At first, I was intrigued by the ambiguity surrounding Henry’s time traveling. Was he in fact seeing his future selves, and as an extension to that, capable of revisiting the past? Or was he simply experiencing an elaborate hallucination, as a symptom of his deteriorating sanity? Associating time travel with a person’s mental state is also interesting, and likewise the mode of it, linking Henry’s ability to travel through time by becoming one with the music and rhythm of the universe.
However, time travel is not the point of this story. It’s not even a big part of it. At its heart, The Lost Boys Symphony is about relationships, growing up, and coming to terms with the decisions you make in life. Henry’s character along with all the versions of him at various ages show how a person can change over a lifetime, and his efforts to go back and alter his future don’t always work out the way he wants them to. Val is another example of a character feeling lost and untethered, after leaving everything behind (her old home, her old school, her old boyfriend) to remake herself and start completely fresh. But it’s unclear that she even knows what it is she wants, and her life does not turn out the way she expected either. Unquestionably, the most melancholic parts of the book are the moments where the “what ifs” and the “what could have beens” come to the surface. If you were offered the choice to find out what your life could have become if you did things differently, would you want to know? For Henry, Gabe, and Val, not knowing might be less painful.
Needless to say, fans of time travel fiction will definitely want to check this book out, though be wary, for this is far from your typical time travel story. It’s easy to get confused if you don’t follow along closely, keeping track of all the different Henrys and the branching paths his life takes as well as how those paths intersect with those of his friends, Gabe and Val. Still, the way the time traveling was handled was one of this book’s most compelling aspects.
In the end, it’s probably safe to say The Lost Boys Symphony is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. This is a very different book than what I’m typically used to, but the relationship dynamics and mix of emotions really spoke to me. Mark Andrew Ferguson’s novel is a very human tale about life and love, exploring a young man’s grief for lost dreams and hope for a better future. A fascinating read.