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Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Book review: A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor

Though this debut only dabbles in deep thoughts, it will be a treat for those who like zippy sci-fi paced like the stories of Kurt Vonnegut.

By Matthew Love
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By Rachel Cantor. Melville House, $17.

What to do when your pizza, purportedly sliced in perfect accord with Pythagorean principles, is more than a few degrees off? Talk to Leonard, a talented listener on Neetsa Pizza’s team of customer-satisfaction assistants. He’s waiting, hunkered down in his meditative White Room with stacks of coupons and compassion—at least, that is, until a man who’s been dead hundreds of years calls upon Leonard to find his soulmate, travel through time and save the world.

With nods to Greek philosophers and Jewish mystics, Rachel Cantor’s debut slingshots the reader through space and time, as it helps Leonard find not only his confidence but a newfound appreciation of love and family. While the agreeable blend of sci-fi and adventure evokes Douglas Adams’s absurd romps and Ray Bradbury’s alternate realities, Cantor’s light, fantastical prance most resembles the exploits of chipper moralist Kurt Vonnegut. Still, for all the sweetness, fun and highbrow namechecking, it comes off as a bit slight. Satisfying everyone is no easy task, as Leonard knows, but it’d be nice to see Cantor wrangle more with the big ideas she courts.
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