Multiple-universe jaunt from the author of Transcension (2001), etc.
August Seebeck, medical student and cattle/sheepherder in the Australian outback, lives with great-aunt Tansy, a psychic whose powers wax and wane according to some indecipherable schedule. When August arrives home, Tansy tells him he can’t use the upstairs bathroom because it’s Saturday—there’ll be a corpse in the bathtub! August investigates, finds no corpse and waits. The window vanishes; two young women drag a corpse through the opening and deposit it in the bathtub. One, Maybelline, turns out to be a long-lost sister (August will later observe her having sex with a sentient Venusian vegetable); the other is Lune, an expert in computational ontology, with whom August falls instantly in love. The feeling’s mutual; end of love story. The corpse, August will learn, is a part flesh, part machine deformer, avatar of the K-machines who wish to destroy August, the huge family he never suspected he had and everyone like them. They are Players, you see, in the Contest of Worlds, and have the ability to move into alternate realities, or cognates. Across the multiuniverse, Players and K-machines try to exterminate one another. The weird markings August bears on his foot are Vorpal implants allowing him to access the Schwelle gateways between the cognates. Soon, he will acquire a sun-powered blaster in his palm and the ability to raise the dead.
Packed with—or, better, built of—reputable scientific theories, extrapolations, speculations, SF in-jokes and knowing references; in places frankly unintelligible; everywhere uncomfortably reminiscent of Roger Zelazny’s Amber chronicles. Often fun, sometimes challenging, but could have used less in-your-face cleverness and more old-fashioned plot.