The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm of two minds on this book. I want to heap a ton of praise on it for being an amusing multi-universal tale that reminds me of the DC universe and Sliders in how many Earths there are, but that's old-school stuff.
I then want to heap praise on it for keeping so much focus on the same sets of characters that our main character has always been interacting with, showing a lot of subtlety and flexibility with the greater tale. But then, there's a lot of that in multi-universal novels, too. Or any novel. This still does a fine job that remains interesting to the end.
So that leaves me with the worldbuilding. The focus on the very rich walled society right next to the very poor and violent society, with all its subtle variations across the multiverse, is a good trope. We're focused on the disadvantages and the inequality and the casual (or not so casual) violence. On its surface and quite far below it, it makes the total novel a pretty rock-solid tale rife with many, many plot reversals and subtle changes.
If I stop here, it's a very decent read. If I don't think about the elephant in the room, it's a great read.
So what's the elephant?
Many-universe theory, as explored here, has infinite variations. Indeed, it goes from the very tiny to the extremely large differences. So why are we stuck in the mid-300's in this tale? Is the limitation needed to keep the novel focused? Apparently. And probably necessary. The alternative is a wide-open tale that can solve the inequality issue, in theory, because there never would have been a need for a single inventor to keep all his secrets THAT close to his chest. We'd be fine with an exponential explosion because there would still be an infinite number of worlds. And then there was the whole question about the rest of THIS single world. All we got to see or hear about was the single city. That was a private universe to itself. So... where is the rest of the complexity? Is it all really just a microcosm after all?
Let's not ask such questions, tho. Let's enjoy the ride for what it is. :)
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