Carey offers up a deeply thought-provoking novel dystopia wrapped in thrilling adventure, science, and suspense. Advances in quantum mechanics lead to the discovery of multiple parallel universes, all centered around Earth. In each universe different intelligent life forms have risen to dominance, from humans to felines to rabbits, with vastly differing societies. The more tech sophisticated civilizations figure out how move between them.
In a mutual pact, hundreds of these societies have come together to form an empire they call Pandominion. They co-exist under the ever-watchful eye of a human-regulated AI who oversees the perfected timing of movement of people and trading of resources between universes. Nothing like refugees having a new world to escape a dying Earth or the ability to trade for depleted resources with the Earth next door. In addition to the AI assist, all worlds contribute soldiers and resources to a uber, tech-augmented military group who enforce the ruling Council’s mandates.
An anonymous narrator, who hints at maybe ending the multiverse, tells three stories that lead to this cataclysmic change. The first features Hadiz Tambuwal, a dark-matter scientist in Nigeria living on an environmentally destroyed Earth, who with help of her lab’s AI, Rupshe, stumbles upon the ability to send drones, and then herself, between the multiverses. Hadiz starts exploring those closest universes in development to her current Earth. Her unsanctioned travel from what Pandemonium dismisses as under-advanced “unvisited” worlds grabs the attention of Pandominion who send in military troops to deal with her.
The second story focuses on Essien Nkanika, an always down-on-his-luck Nigerian who Hadiz befriends on her world, and who Hadiz takes on a trip to an empty paradise type world. Essien, who sets out to betray Hadiz to capture her device for himself and sell it to the highest bidder. He Instead gets caught by the troops who come to dispatch Hadiz, and shot her in the chest. The troops bring Essien back to the Pandominion for questioning as a co-conspirator, only to ultimate dismiss him as clueless and allow him to live by joining the militia.
Lastly, there’s Topaz Tourmaline FiveHills, a smart teenager living in a rabbit-like-species dominant culture, who inadvertently befriends an AI who has taken been imbedded in a human form. This AI has been sent out as a spy by sentient machines who have risen to dominance in yet other parallel universes and have come under unexpected attack from Pandominion who cannot tolerate un-regulated AI. This sparks an epic war between machines and biological species, into which all the characters get swept up.
It’s easy to lose yourself in these three compelling parallel stories that converge in a huge heart-slamming finale. And a sudden cliff-hanger leaves you urgently awaiting the next offering in this compelling series.
Thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.