Quantum Leap: Too Close For Comfort (1993) – Ashley McConnell

McConnell’s second Quantum Leap book, Too Close For Comfort, feels closer to the spirit of the show than the first one. The characters of time traveller Sam Beckett, and his holographic connection with the present, Al, seem more in line with their established selves, and gone is the suggestion of what happens to Sam between the leaps.

This time, Sam finds himself way too close to home. It’s June 1990, New Mexico. Sam leaps into Ross Malachy, a young university student, who is working with Dr. Wales, a man running a men’s self-esteem group.

Sam is intrigued by the idea that at the same time he’s inhabiting Ross, somewhere, very close by, his earlier self is working on developing Project Quantum Leap. Something similar occurs to Al, but not quite so removed, it seems his earlier self is part of Wales’ group. The Al of this time period is about to retire from the navy, has concluded his work with Sam on Project Star Bright, is going through another divorce and is debating on a couple of different jobs, one of them being Quantum Leap.

While the project’s supercomputer Ziggy attempts to figure out what Sam is there to do, he’s never been this close to his own present before, the time traveller finds himself enmeshed in a family drama that sees Wales, his wife Jenniver, and daughter Lisa at odds.

Jenniver is sick, Lisa is on the verge of making a terrible, life-changing mistake, and despite the self-esteem Dr. Wales advocates in the group, he’s distant and unable to connect with his own family.

As the story unfolds Sam makes references to things that Al doesn’t recall. Usually he and Ziggy are the only ones who notice the changes in the timeline they are in, but this time, there is the introduction of the idea of multiple timelines.

It’s merely brushed against it, but it’s definitely an interesting idea, and it’s very cool that the book even hints at it.

There are a few moments near the beginning of the book that doesn’t quite ring true to the Al we know, but perhaps encountering one’s younger self will do that to you. Beyond that, this one actually plays out like it’s an episode of the series, which is a high compliment as far as I’m concerned.

There are some very nicely written moments, and the way it wraps up feels very much like the series. This time out, I could hear the character performances a little stronger in my head, something that didn’t happen in the first novel. McConnell is settling into the storytelling style and actor’s dialogue delivery to tell a solid story (and much stronger than the first one).

Sam’s literary adventures will continue when I dig into The Wall.

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