As I mentioned last week, in my Hugo Nomination post, this story nearly dethroned The Once and Future Witches as my nomination for the award. However, I did not have to settle for nominating just one great book, and instead, got to nominate three! So . . . props to that!
Which means! I don’t have to try and come up with and defend a reason why this book got the nomination over the other, or vice versa, which honestly is a huge weight off my shoulders. I do not know which I would have chosen (Or, at the end of all this, which I will choose though I suppose many of my choices will be eliminated by the other voters and I can just pick my favorite of the finalists)
A little background on my expectations for this book: I had none, really whatsoever. This was another book that made it onto my list because I’d seen it on the Goodreads Best Science Fiction 2020 list, and a few other places on the net.
The author, Micaiah Johnson was completely new to me, and probably new to most people, as this book appears to be a debut (excellent!). I’m not sure if I even read the premise or if I just dove in blind but I can say that in either case, I was completely blown away.
I’ll start by admitting that I’m no stranger to multiverse stories, and have always had something of a soft spot for them. I can think of at least six novels I’ve read in the past that relate to it in some way (Michael Zapata’s The Lost Book of Adana Moreau being the most recent, and Michael Crichton’s Timeline being the first. I suppose you don’t need to be named Michael to write one though). And then of course there is all the movies (The One with Jet Li perhaps being an oldie but one of my fav’s), and TV shows (looking at you Rick and Morty).
Oh and duh, Into the Spiderverse.
Needless to say, it would seem that perhaps there are infinite possibilities and ways an author can use this trope, and an infinite amount of stories which already have.
Yes, it would seem that there is something altogether irresistible about the notion of ‘what could have been’. What would my life be like if I had done X instead of Y? Would I still have chosen to do Z? The world may never know, but I have always wanted to.
And that only considers the life you could have lived if you had made different choices. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of the things that affect your life over which you are completely powerless (who doesn’t want to wake up in a universe where covid-19, or most of 2020 didn’t happen?). It’s a loop you can get stuck in forever if you let yourself.
So Why Was This Example So Good?
Well, I suppose the kinds of things that make any story good, whether it involves a multiverse or not.
An intricate and well-developed setting. In this case, a kind of post apocalypse in which the beautiful future we’ve always imagined is only available for the few super rich, while everyone else struggles to survive in the mud and ash.
A compelling main character who is driven and moral (though I don’t think she would consider herself to be moral). One who we want to see succeed though we cannot for the life of us see how she will pull it off.
The list goes on, but I believe it is this (traveling through the) multiverse component that compounds all of the choices our heroine makes. It is so much harder to see a villain be evil when we have traveled to a universe in which they are good. How can our heroine survive when she never has before (a seemingly literal use of the odds are against her)?
Of course everything I’ve described here seems so reduced and easy when described in a post like this, but the author’s skill really shines through if (hopefully when) you read it, because the reader can’t look at the story on this level while it’s happening. All you’re concerned with is what is going to happen next!
So . . . Hugo?
As of 3/23/2021, assuming none of the other books I recommended are finalists? Yes in every universe. I think it will take an extremely good book (or a lot of soul searching on my part) to knock this one from the top spot.
We’ll see what the future holds . . .
See you next time!