NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE • An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens the very fabric of the multiverse in this stunning debut, a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
WINNER OF THE COMPTON CROOK AWARD • “Gorgeous writing, mind-bending world-building, razor-sharp social commentary, and a main character who demands your attention—and your allegiance.”—Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Library Journal • Book Riot
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this dystopian Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now what once made her marginalized has finally become an unexpected source of power. She has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world but the entire multiverse.
“Clever characters, surprise twists, plenty of action, and a plot that highlights social and racial inequities in astute prose.”—Library Journal (starred review)
A Must Read
Beautiful ✨ That’s all there is to say! I cried throughout the whole book! It hit home in so many ways!
A perfect blend of sci fi themes that explores death, life choices, class, and belonging, with a little lesbian love for good measure. Definitely sci fi for our times. Mark my words I smell Oscar.
Wonderful adult sci-fi
Rating: 5/5 alternate worlds
Format: ebook. I’d like to thank NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
What it's like:
It has some similarities with other multi-verse stories, but also a lot of unique aspects too that I really enjoyed. I got some Mad-Max vibes which were brutal but very cool.
To sum up:
This story is the intense and emotional journey of one “transverser” named Cara. Transversers can travel between multiverses, or, alternate versions of our current reality. In their world, 342 different versions of Earth have been found, some very similar and others wildly different from their own. The company Cara works for sends her to these alternate worlds to gather data that can aid their world in all sorts of ways, from the stock market to the natural disasters. The catch is if a Transverser goes to a world where another version of themselves exists/is still alive, it is fatal. Cara has died on all but 8 of the 342 known versions of Earth so she is valuable to her company. Part introspective prose, and part sci-fi thriller adventure, this book is a wild ride where Cara must not only survive, but figure out where she truly belongs.
What I loved:
Much of the book is a reflection on how a combination of our choices and chance can drastically alter the trajectories of our lives. Set in a world where the haves and have nots are separated by a strong wall in the sand, Cara is both an outsider, and an aspiring member of the elite inside the walls, working for the most powerful company in their world. She is a combination of the survival instincts she’s strengthened over the years of her young adult life and fierce ambition. She is determined to have more than what she was given in life, and it’s impossible to not root for her. I loved being inside Cara’s head and discovering the mysteries underlying why she is the way she is. The plot unfolds at a wonderful pace, giving us little hints and clues along the way with a lot of surprises and intense moments. How Cara deals with and faces the trauma of her past is inspiring and so moving.
In addition to Cara’s emotional and physical journey, I also really enjoyed how the world was described in this story. Unlike a lot of adult sci-fi that I read (and like), this story doesn’t dwell on the technical details of the technology, or overexplain every aspect of their world and why it is the way it is. The world-building elements are expertly sprinkled in, just enough to give context when you need it but not bog down the complex emotional and psychological aspects going on in the story. This approach wouldn’t work for some sci-fi, but for Cara’s journey, it absolutely does. It keeps you focused on her instead of the world, which is the way it should be in my opinion.
Lastly, I loved the relationships in this novel. There is an F/F slow burn romance that I was cheering for so hard haha But there is also a mentor/mentee relationship that is really beautiful and a complex sister relationship I loved. Each relationship is just as layered and complex as the multiverses Cara visits, all shaped by past experiences, regrets, and hopes for the future. They are each imperfect and perceptions and communications often clouded by biases, privilege, insecurities, and past trauma. Johnson weaves together these elements beautifully and these characters and the world feel vividly real and raw as a result.
Overall, this is not a book for the faint of heart (or for kids). It’s an adult journey, complex and sometimes ugly but also an empowering one that I hope you’ll take with Cara!