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REVIEW | The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko (Tor)

The Walls of the Universe is based on the novella of the same name, which was voted the best story by Asimov's Science Fiction in 2006. I never read the original novella, but I can certainly see how it won such accolades. The plot is fairly straight forward. What if a duplicate of you were to show up from another universe? Would you trust them? Should you trust them? Farm boy John Rayburn from universe 7533 is visited by another John Rayburn thereafter called John Prime. Prime has a device which allows him to travel different dimensions, which he gives to Rayburn who tries it out but quickly realizes Prime tricked him and can't go home. The device can only travel in one direction. From there the story splits in 2 with one part following Prime trying to take Rayburn's place as he is tired of traveling the multi-verses while also "inventing" technology that he knows about from other universes that haven't been developed in 7533. In this case Rubik's Cube. Rayburn travels down the dimensions trying to figure out what to do and ends up putting down roots in a random universe where he has no counter part just so he can figure out the inner workings of the device in hopes of going home. The ideas Melko came up with for some of the alternative universe were great fun. What would the world be like if Clinton was elected a term earlier? What would the world be like if the Visigoths defeated the Romans? Rayburn attends college to try to get a better grasp of science to hopefully reverse engineer the device or at least repair it so he can go home. Rayburn makes a few friends and accidentally tells them about pinball, which doesn't exist in this universe. Intrigued his friends talk him in to building a machine, which they change to a head-to-head pin ball machine. I was interested enough in this idea to do some searching and found this:

I'd love a chance to play a few rounds of head-to-head pinball. The friends build a prototype, which is an instant success and snowballs into a company. From there Rayburn meets a group of stranded dimension hoppers and learns they are singletons who have been stuck in this universe for 50 years while making money off of technology not from this dimension. Singletons are people that have no counterparts throughout the dimensions. This particular people were part of a group bent on dominating multiple universes who were thwarted by another group even more powerful. While all of this is going on Prime is married to the girl he has loved throughout his dimensional trips and leads him into a major run-in with the same bully that keeps popping up every other dimension.

The story wraps up well, although not wholly original in some concepts Melko was able to create characters that the reader can connect with along with some fun ideas on the differences between the universes. Melko has laid down plenty of notions to mine for future stories in this multi-verse so I hope to see another one with a grandeur scale involving the other dimensional travelers and a trip to the universe that created the traveling device. I give The Wall of Universes 7 out of 10 hats. Book Link: US Canada UK


Paul said...

Yes, the sequels will go upward in scale, with John Farmboy starting out to right wrongs, and then having to deal with various entities, including the bad guys from book one, the zeroers (inhabitants of universe #0) and eventually the makers of the multiverse.

The Mad Hatter said...

Just what I was hoping for. Is there a pub date in mind yet?

Paul said...

Not yet. I'm working on proposals for the sequels at the moment.