In Smith’s (Reality Alternatives, 2016, etc.) sci-fi tale, an experiment opens portals to alternate universes and three variations of the same young woman struggle in environments warped by climate change.
The opening of this book lays out three permutations of the year 2100, after global warming has damaged Earth. “Universe 1” offers a scorched landscape where young, semiferal Kat Garcia scrounges for sustenance in the ruins with a few other survivors. In the more livable Colorado of “Universe 2,” college student Kaitlin Garcia anticipates a future with her meteorologist boyfriend while researching a remedy for climate change even as superstorms and rising sea levels batter the United States. In a police-state “Universe 3,” elite scientist Katherine Garcia aspires to create a machine that can generate limitless energy while she deals with swarming surveillance robots and pressure to join a government-mandated dating and breeding program. A quantum-energy fluke opens portals between the three realities. Now the triune heroines can not only communicate and assist one another, but also physically visit other universes—along with assorted lovers, persecutors, and pursuers. But the aftereffects of the rifts are starting to make the multiverse come apart at the seams. Although this isn’t a comedy, Smith delivers the sci-fi equivalent of a high-speed slamming-door stage play in the Lend Me a Tenor vein, full of scampering mix-ups, look-alike characters, and quick entrances and exits. As in such productions, things start off sedate but soon accelerate crazily. It’s an understatement to say that it’s tough keeping the characters, causes, and effects straight from universe to universe. Also, the plot relies increasingly on interventions of a sassy, deus ex machina artificial intelligence named Pandora, who learns to transcend universes and pull off godlike deliverance on demand. Despite the threat of Einsteinian, trans-dimensional total destruction, things wrap up a little too neatly. Overall, though, Smith, a physicist, effectively invests the tangled yarn with brio, imagination, and doses of real-life science.
A wheels-within-wheels yarn that isn’t perfect but sure takes readers for a spin.