3 out of 4 stars
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The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics states that at any point in time the universe splits into multiple universes in which every possible outcome is realised. In one world you avoid crashing your car; in another, you crash the car, but walk away with only minor injuries; in another, you don’t walk away at all; and in yet another, you didn’t get into the car to begin with. Now, imagine there was a way to impact the other worlds. This is the theme Adam Guest explores in his debut novel, Worldlines.
Gary Jackson recounts to his university physics class how he narrowly avoided being hit by a lorry during his school days. His physics professor then hints that from his perspective it was a narrow miss, but that perhaps, from another perspective, he was indeed hit by the lorry. A few weeks later, Gary sits in prison awaiting trial for murder. Despite several witnesses, Gary has no memory of committing the crime.
Meanwhile, in another worldline, Gary Jackson was left permanently disabled after being hit by a lorry during his school days. One night in a dream, Gary commits murder. Initially shocked at himself that he would do such a thing, he reasons that it was just a dream and doesn’t mean anything. Upon visiting Mary, his girlfriend’s dementia-suffering mother, Gary is increasingly shaken as Mary proceeds to describe his entire dream, claiming she saw him do it.
Somehow, the offending Gary must contact the parallel worldline and attempt to help his counterpart before the physics student pays the ultimate price for a crime he did not commit.
The story, written in a conversational style, is told in the first person narrative from the perspectives of the Garys of the different worldlines. This affords the reader insight into the varying worldlines and the sometimes subtle, sometimes vast differences that occur due to divergences in outcomes of events. For example, the Gary who was hit by the lorry leads a very different life as compared to the Gary who was not. The characters are each well-developed and the worlds created by the author are believable. The plot, although intricate, is fairly easy to follow and really sparks the imagination of the reader.
I really enjoyed watching identical scenes play out in different worldlines. It was so intriguing to see how completely different – or, surprisingly, only subtly different – reality in a specific worldline could be, depending on if a single event had gone one way or the other. The author skilfully identified events that had the potential for different outcomes and then thought through those outcomes to their varying conclusions. This was my favourite aspect of the book.
Despite the story being truly excellent and exceptionally well-written, the poor policing of commas and overuse of semi-colons in the first portion of the book really detracted from the reading experience. This was my least favourite quality of the book.
Due to the number of typographical and grammatical errors that I found, I would say that this book was not professionally edited. Unfortunately, although I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I am forced to remove one star for this, and award a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. With another round of careful editing this book could easily achieve full marks.
There was only one instance of profanity, making this book suitable for adults and more mature high school students. I would recommend Worldlines by Adam Guest to open-minded fans of science-fiction and all things ‘multiverse’.
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