It’s the future, and ‘stepping’ between parallel universes has become as commonplace as inter-continental flights. More so, in fact, because all you really need is a potato and some copper wire, rather than a few hundred quid for a ticket! Each consecutive universe holds a different version of Earth – all the possible ways that geology, geography and evolution could have played out. The first world after our Earth is recognisable, and quite busy by the time the story starts, but further out, things get stranger – and in some universes there is no Earth.
The book tracks the story of several pioneers into these alternative worlds, including Joshua Valiente, who has the curious gift of being able to ‘step’ spontaneously. It also tracks back to the discovery of the alternative universes and the means to access them.
If I had a criticism, and I haven’t really I would say it sometimes feels a little piecemeal. The main characters never really meet, so there are several brilliant stories being told alongside one another. This is obviously a fairly common way of telling a story, but you can sort of tell that it was written by two people over the course of several meetings up and individual writing sessions. On the other hand, this a fits rather well with the idea of there being several billion Earths all ticking along mere seconds away from one another but at the same time completely separate (don’t quote me on the science bit!).
I’m not a science fiction expert so I don’t know how much the book owes to other parallel universe novels, but I found it very inventive, intriguing and exciting. And luckily, because it’s clearly setting up for the next book – The Long War is now out in hardback!