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A collection of short stories explores multiple dimensions, alternative realities, and disastrous quantum-cosmic anomalies—and how they might affect humans.

The cosmos is dangerously unstable in these tales by Barone (Bebette, 2017, etc.). The narratives closely orbit mind-blowing themes of cosmologies gone awry and quantum apocalypses. There are multiple, parallel, and overlapping universes; dithery dimensions; and time-space anomalies, where fissures develop in the foundations of everything. Many of the stories turn out to be interlinked, following the dilemma of Tim Landry, gifted with synesthesia, lucid dreaming, and vivid déjà vu. During an episode of the last, he deliberately looks in a different direction than he was destined to, thus branching off into a new cause-effect line. Not a good thing, as Tim traverses different versions of his life, never finding himself quite fitting into any of them, winding up humiliatingly labeled as disturbed and put on meds. Other recurring elements: an ill-fated government invention called (in one iteration) the “angel mirror” for peering into nearby dimensions, and orange-eyed mystery men in tan coats who lurk ominously. Some memorable tales do function independently (albeit, consistent with the rubbery-reality notion). In “Vinnie,” a Mafia don brutalizes a strangely passive youth with immense paranormal powers, who has his revenge after all. The standout stand-alone, “Flowers for the Author,” depicts a creatively blocked writer who strikes a Mephistophelean pact to be a successful novelist—but in return, he is harassed by unfulfilled characters demanding he flesh them out in fiction. While other genre writers have used parallel universe/hidden dimension angles as a gimmick in conjuring H.P. Lovecraft-ian monsters or what-if historical speculations, Barone is intrigued by the theoretical aspects themselves. Some stories feel like rewrites or variant drafts of others—but maybe that’s how things go in the multiverse.

Sci-fi tales for alternative-reality fans and Schrödinger’s cat fanciers.

Page count: 248pp
Publisher: manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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