by Blake Crouch
(c) 2016 by the author
Since at least as far back as Murray Leinster’s “Sidewise in Time” (1934), science fiction writers have been penning tales of traveling through the “multiverse” of alternate histories. So despite what some of the reviewers might be saying, there’s nothing really novel about Crouch’s novel in that regard. But what is new is that instead of positing another world where the Confederacy won the War Between the States or the Nazis won WWII, Crouch makes it personal.
Everyone has made important decisions in their lives. What college to attend, what job to take, to break up or not to break up with a lover…. Crouch pens a fast-paced action-adventure story based around the individual “alternaties” that spring from the many choices we make.
Jason Dessen is a happily married college physics professor. But fifteen years ago, he decided to give up a potentially promising research career in order to marry the woman he loved, and raise their child. Like all of us, he occasionally wonders what might have been, but has no regrets.
After a drink at a bar to celebrate a friend’s winning a major science prize, he is suddenly kidnapped and drugged. When he wakes up, he’s in a completely different world – one where he didn’t get married, and instead discovered a way to travel between alternate realities. He doesn’t figure it out right away (his confusion is understandable), but when he does, it’s a matter of trying to get back to his original world and deal with the version of him that stole his life.
There’s a good deal of action – the usual chase scene stuff, mostly. And it moves along at a brisk clip. Not surprisingly, it feels rather cinematic (as I write this, Sony Pictures has the movie rights and there’s supposedly something “in development”). Crouch is the guy whose “Wayward Pines” novels got adapted for the small screen, so he knows what works visually. He also seems to have done his homework on quantum mechanics, consciousness, and the “many worlds” hypothesis. His idea on how to travel the Multiverse has the ring of plausibility about it.
Unlike a great deal of “alternate world” SF, there’s almost no exploration of the alternate worlds that Dessen wanders in to. That’s not the point here; and what makes this novel different and worthwhile. It’s a personal history that’s the subject. What about the decisions you have made in your life? We’ve all got regrets; how different would our lives be if we chose otherwise? If you could go to your own personal alternate timeline, would you?
It’s a very intriguing idea, and one that I don’t recall coming across something like this before. Well worth your time…..hmm… how different would your life become if you decide not to read it?