Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first book in The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor. It is AWESOME. There’s no other word I can think of to describe it. This book had me laughing so hard at various points that my sides hurt. Of course, laughter wasn’t the only strong emotion it evoked in me. It is not an easy book to describe. Taylor has a talent for sending you into hysterics one minute, and then making you catch your breath and wince in the next. The characters are memorable, something is always happening, and you never know what you’re going to read/hear next.
The main character, Max, describes herself at one point as “a small grey ginger sack”. She’s a bit on the curvy side, a lot on the mouthy side, and absolutely brilliant. She’s also a klutz with an absolute inability to hold her alcohol, and aware that she’s not very self-aware. She’s bold and rowdy and pulls some bafflingly stupid crap at times. But it all works so well together. She’s not perfect. She doesn’t make sense. And you want her as your best friend. She works for St. Mary’s, where they “investigate major historical events in contemporary time”. And we don’t call it time-travel!
St. Mary’s isn’t just where she works though. It opens with her having her interview for the site, and by the end of it, you know she hasn’t just found a job. She’s found a home. They bicker, pull pranks, get in over their head, save each other’s lives, destroy property, and get plastered regularly. In between all that, they put their lives on the line getting first hand accounts of all sorts of historical events for the university they are associated with.
I don’t think it’s ever detailed exactly how far in the future Just One Damned Thing After Another takes place in, but I got the feeling it isn’t terribly far ahead. Obviously, there’s time travel, but that’s a thing unique to St. Mary’s. America has closed its borders. Technology has advanced to the point where information can be compiled into holographic data stacks. But there’s no blasters, spaceships, etc. Well, at least not that we’re aware of. Things are either happening in the past, or on the campus for the most part.
There’s always something happening in this book. Always. In fact, that’s actually one of my few complaints about it. Jodi Taylor packs so much into one book (without it being ridiculously long) that it’s really hard to appreciate how much time has passed. I believe Just One Damn Thing After Another covers Max’s first five years with the company, though the events only the first and last are really talked about. The rest is mentioned in passing to give you an idea of how relationships are developing.
The Chronicles of St. Mary’s are a mix of science fiction, historical fiction, and comedy. (Though, fair warning, it’s definitely ‘British’ humor. I thought it was ridiculously funny. But one of my fellow readers couldn’t understand why I was laughing my rear off about it because she didn’t get the humor.) Below are a few of my favorite quotes that might illustrate the point for you.
“If this was one of those books, there would now be three pages of head-banging s*x. The reality was that he pulled me close, whispered, ‘Mfhbnnntx,’ and I pulled his arm over me like a cover and muttered, ‘Trout,’ and that was pretty much it.”
― Jodi Taylor,
“He had fallen for Cal like a sperm-whale failing to clear the Grand Canyon on a bicycle.”
― Jodi Taylor,
Jodi Taylor creates a world that you just don’t want to leave. Max quickly became dear to my heart as did most of the crew at St. Mary’s. It takes a special kind of writer to create a world that you so instantly feel at home in. It is not heavy on the science part of science fiction, nor does it delve into the nitty-gritty of the historical side of things. It’s not something to read if you’re expecting a serious examination of the past or the tech. But if you like adventure stories and love memorable characters, you’ll definitely want to to give Just One Damn Thing After Another a go.
I would highly recommend the audio book version. Zara Ramm does an outright amazing job as Max.