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Perspective | If you loved “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” try these novels


With “Everything Everywhere All At Once” garnering awards all over the world and (we assume) some parallel realities on top of that, the multiverse is firmly back in the spotlight. The idea that the universe we know is just one in an infinite number of worlds has captivated writers for generations. So what is old, what is new and what lies just outside the thin membrane of reality? Join us as we try to understand everything, through books.

Silvia: A few years ago someone asked me if I could predict an emerging trend in speculative fiction, and I said more multiverses. Most literary predictions don’t come true, but I think I was on the right track. Books like Matt Haig’s “The Midnight Library” (2020), about a woman able to see the alternate modes of existence she may have lived, or Micaiah Johnson’s “The Space Between Worlds” (2020), in which a multiverse traveler having to find out who killed her counterpart in another reality has touched many readers.

But who invented the concept of the multiverse? A popular answer is Michael Moorcock, who imagined a series of parallel realities inhabited by the Eternal Champion, a figure who maintains the balance between order and chaos. One of these champions is Elric, a haunted albino prince with a magical sword that feeds on the souls of those killed by it. The Elric stories have been collected in several volumes, including last year’s “The Citadel of Forgotten Myths.” Being technically a prequel, “Citadel” offers a great start to the saga. This summer, Titan Comics will release “The Michael Moorcock Library: Multiverse, Vol. 1″, which collects a series of comic books from the ’90s.

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Elric’s stories originally appeared in the 1960s, but I read them as a teenager in the early 1990s and they were my first foray into multiverses, along with the TV show “Sliders.” What was the first book with the concept of a multiverse that you read?

Life: The multiverse is a very timely theme — Alix E. Harrow’s “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” (2019) is a charming take on the subject, as is Susanna Clarke’s “Piranesi” (2020), which takes inspiration from CS Lewis’s “The Magician’s Nephew” (1955) with its “Wood Between the Worlds” that connects multiple realities. But I’ll go old school and refer to a few short stories. Isaac Asimov’s “Living Space” (1956) has an infinite number of blank earths – so everyone gets a whole planet to themselves, at least until some unsavory characters move in next door And in ‘The Big Front Yard’ (1958) by Clifford Simak, an intergalactic stargate opens one day in a man’s house. Simak returned to the theme in his classic novel “Way Station” (1963), about the human keeper of such a portal.

The great one, however, is undoubtedly Roger Zelazny’s classic “The Chronicles of Amber,” beginning with “Nine Princes in Amber” (1970), which opens, in classic hardboiled style, with Prince Corwin of Amber waking up on our Earth. (after an “accident”) without his memory. It isn’t long before he learns that he is the heir to the throne of Amber, the one and only real world of which all other worlds are “shadows” – and that he has the ability to move between them. Zelazny was inspired by Philip José Farmer’s “World of Tiers” series, beginning with “The Maker of Universes” (1965), in which an immortal who also lost his memory on our Earth discovers that he is the lost ruler of a pocket universe and has the ability to move between worlds.

Charles Stross’ “Merchant Princes” series, which began with 2004’s “The Family Trade,” pays homage to Amber, where merchants exploit the commercial opportunities of the multiverse. George R. R. Martin, a close friend of Zelazny, was himself inspired by the Amber novels for his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, beginning with “A Game of Thrones” (1996), which eschews the multiverse but avoids the murderous machinations retains royalty for the throne. (Martin was behind several attempts to bring Zelazny’s work to the screen, and the “Amber” books have only recently been picked up again, this time by Stephen Colbert.)

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Silvia: I loved the “Amber” books when I was younger. I also read CJ Cherryh’s “Morgaine Cycle,” beginning with “Gate of Ivrel” (1976), in which a mysterious woman travels between worlds on a mission to close the gates that connect them. This is one of those novels where any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, so even though it feels like sword and sorcery, there is a scientific explanation.

Finally, Philip Pullman’s young adult series, “His Dark Materials,” which began with “Northern Lights (The Golden Compass)” in 1995, is set in a multiverse across several worlds, and includes a search for the nature of a mysterious element called ‘Dust’. Are there any other multiverses you like to remember?

Life: I have a soft spot for Stephen King’s original “Gunslinger” stories, which became the “Dark Tower” series. But pick up one of these, and I don’t think you can go wrong! And you, dear reader: which multiverse book is your favorite?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of ‘The Daughter of Doctor Moreau’ and ‘Mexican Gothic’. Her latest novel, ‘Zilvernitraat’, will be published in July. Lavie Tidhar’s latest novels are ‘Maror’ and ‘Neom’.

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