Fair Coin: A quirky vision of a fun science fiction trope

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFair Coin by E.C. Myers science fiction book reviewsFair Coin by E.C. Myers

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers is the first book in a YA science fiction series. The hero, Ephraim Scott, lives in Summerside, New York. One day he comes home from school to discover that his alcoholic mother has overdosed on pills. She did this because she was told Ephraim was killed in an accident. This is not a hoax or a mistake; when Ephraim takes his mother to the hospital he finds out that the boy in the morgue has ID and a library card in Ephraim’s name. Soon, Ephraim finds a quarter from the “state” of Puerto Rico, and then a note appears in his locker, telling him to make a wish and flip the coin.

Ephraim is skeptical but he tries it. At first his wishes seem to come true, but there are always random side effects and soon Ephraim is affecting the lives of his best friend Nathan, his crush Jena Kim and the twins Mary and Shelley. In fact, Ephraim soon discovers that he may be putting the whole world, or even the universe, at risk with his actions.

I found Fair Coin to be slow going. Myers spends the first 133 pages shuffling through Ephraim’s “wishes” and their aftermath. The next bit is a spoiler, so if you want to read it, highlight the text. Ephraim is not changing his own reality; he is jumping into alternate universes. The reader has already figured out the true nature of the coin, and most of Ephraim’s wishes center around Nathan’s lecherous fantasies about the Latina identical twins who are improbably named Mary and Shelley (Dad was an English major.) Once Ephraim figures out what is really going on the book gets more interesting, but the denouement requires too much work for what is basically a simple trick designed to fool a villain who really should be smarter.

Fair Coin is an interesting spin, or perhaps I should say “flip,” on a standard science fiction trope. The gimmick of the “wishing coin” is clever, Myers writes good dialogue and his prose is solid. The characters could be much better developed. Once we get beyond Ephraim, the teen characters are practically stereotypes — the sexually frustrated Comics Nerd friend, the Asian Girl Genius, the Hot Twins. An older character, a homeless man who knows more than he is telling, is well done. Myers has some trouble developing Ephraim’s mother, who could be a very powerful character, because she changes each time he makes a wish.

I think young teen boys might enjoy this more than I did. I’m rating the book rather low, but E.C. Myers has talent and a quirky vision, and this idea has potential.

Publication Date: March 27, 2012. The coin changed Ephraim’s life. But how can he change it back? Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more dis­turbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day. Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin — a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own. The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted — if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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