Titan Books, 2022, Paperback, 368pp, £8.99, ISBN 9781803360386
This book review was written in 2022 for Vector, the magazine of the British Science Fiction Association.
What would you do if you had an evil other-dimensional twin? Worse, what if that same twin was the genius who first discovered how to skip between parallel worlds? You’d probably do what Hayes Figueiredo does in Fractured Infinity: grab the love of your life and run as fast and as far as you could across the multiverse.
Things didn’t start that way. The first Hayes knew of his evil twin, he was picked up by a top secret research lab that had discovered a machine that could see the past and predict the future. So, why did they need Hayes? He’s nobody; the lab’s top scientist calls him “nondescript”, just a small-time documentary film-maker.
Or at least, that’s all he is in this universe. However, there’s a version of Hayes in one particular universe who’s very special; so special, in fact, that he’s invented a machine called an Envisioner, and has sent hundreds, maybe thousands of them, out across the multiverse.
In Hayes’ universe, a space probe on the edge of the solar system has found an Envisioner, and brought it back to Earth for further investigation.
Oh, yeah, about that. Hayes doesn’t live in our time, and probably not on our Earth either; Fractured Infinity is set a few decades hence, on a world where the USA splintered a little while back, where climate change is just about under control, and they’ve got better than us at space exploration (don’t freak out, there are other, weirder, milieux to come in Fractured Infinity).
Anyway, the top secret lab Hayes find himself in is trying to understand how the Envisioner works, where it came from, and who built it. Once the scientists have convinced themselves that Hayes is really not a pan-dimensional genius, he joins a team of media experts at the lab. They’re trying to decode what it shows of the future (and there’s an awful lot of future to be decoded). The breakthrough comes when it’s realised that the Envisioner is so confusing because it’s showing futures – plural – not just the singular future of Hayes’ world.
While this is going on, Hayes and the lab’s deputy lead scientist have fallen truly, madly, deeply in love, which is sweet. When the secret lab is attacked, Hayes is able to save his lover’s life by using the Envisioner; but there’s a Faustian catch in that “adjacent realities seek a zero-sum,” – meaning, if you use the Envisioner to save someone who should have died, the universe(s) will demand compensation, and its interest rates are shockingly steep.
With true love conquering all, Hayes refuses to admit defeat, and sets off across the multiverse with his lover. He gains more and more power over the Envisioner, but leaves a trail of ruined Earths in his wake. As the universe corrects itself again and again, they’re pursued across universes by his boss from the secret lab and his evil genius dimensional twin. Time is running out for our starstruck lovers…
I really wanted to like Fractured Infinity. Tavares’ writing fizzes along, all funny, knowing, and then suddenly sad. He has wicked an ear for a cool turn of phrase, and there are plenty of moments to make you smile at his wit and cleverness. Not only that, he throws ideas out at a cracking pace, creating and discarding entire Earths like there’s no tomorrow.
That’s all fabulous, but the romance between Hayes and his true love, Yusuf, takes up an awful lot of the page count; to the point where Fractured Infinity can’t seem to decide if it’s science fiction or Mills & Boon. Obviously, the true romance between our two lovers is required in order to justify Hayes’ later actions tearing across dimensions, but although charming to begin with, it becomes a bit cloying after 300-plus pages, and not even Tavares’ fertile imagination and skill with words can quite leaven that lovey-dovey dough.