Tag Archive for 'parallel universes'

book recommendation: Now That You’re Here

In a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek.

One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee–a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

I consider myself something of a connoisseur of stories about parallel universes. I’ve been a fan of multiple worlds since the Spock-with-a-beard episode of the original Star Trek, and I never tire of seeing the idea explored in television, films, and of course books. It seems like the last decade has enjoyed a kind of alternate-universe Renaissance; the idea of visiting other universes has gone from a niche concept like the old show Sliders in the 1990s to a mainstream popular culture phenomenon. That’s good news for aficionados like me who can’t get enough of these tales, but the flip side is that we’ve kind of seen everything by now. Or have we?

One of the joys of multiverse stories is that there are as many variations on the topic as there are (potentially) other worlds out there. The key to making these stories unique, entertaining, and moving is to focus on the characters who live them — and that’s where Amy K. Nichols’ debut YA novel, Now That You’re Here, shines. Main characters Eevee Solomon and Danny Ogden (who alternate chapters throughout the book), and a host of secondary characters including Eevee’s best friend Warren, are believable, sympathetic, and engaging. You need a compelling cast to ground a book like this in reality — take your pick of which — and whisk the reader along through the inevitable exposition. One of the trickiest parts of any book dealing with theoretical quantum physics is conveying it to readers, and Nichols manages that delicate balance well.

Rather than dwelling on the complex science that might make multiple worlds — and travel between them — possible, Nichols emphasizes the complexity of people: What makes us who we are, and the relationships that bind us together. What’s most important is how Danny’s jump from his universe to Eevee’s affects them both. Their stories intersect and parallel each other in surprising, fascinating ways; Danny loses his universe, a dystopian surveillance state, and in turn shakes up Eevee’s world, allowing her to realize just how controlled her own life has been. This book also celebrates geeks and how intelligence, curiosity, and compassion can empower teens to accomplish profound things — all with a bit of wit, humor, and romance.

From its literally explosive start, Now That You’re Here hooks the reader and pulls them into Eevee’s world right along with Danny. The mystery of how Danny exchanged places with his other self is explained (mostly) in a satisfying, and to me entirely fresh way, and the sensible and clever steps Eevee, Danny, and Warren take to unravel it and devise a solution to send him home is thrilling. But it’s the personal questions they ask of themselves and each other, and the answers they find together, that provides the real substance of the novel.

If you’re new to books about parallel universes, Now That You’re Here is the perfect place to launch your adventure across multiple worlds. And if you think you’ve seen it all, you’re wrong; though this book necessarily treads on some familiar ground, you haven’t met anyone like Eevee and Danny — or their other selves — yet. Fans of books like Parallel by Lauren Miller, Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, and Planesrunner by Ian McDonald shouldn’t miss this exciting take on the multiverse. I’m already looking forward to While You Were Gone, the second book in the Duplexity duology, in which we see what the alternate Eevee and Danny are up to in Danny’s parallel world. Brilliant, right?

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols is now available from Knopf Books for Young Readers. While You Were Gone (Duplexity #2) will follow in 2015.

This post originally appeared at The League of Extraordinary Writers.

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choosing your own adventures

20140324_224646One of my favorite parts of writing happens when I’m not writing. You know, those moments during the day when you’re thinking about, maybe even dreaming about, the story or the characters in your work in progress. I love brainstorming, whether it’s my own book or someone else’s work, because there’s a sense of play to it; you aren’t committing anything to paper yet, so it doesn’t take much work. (It also may not feel like work, so you might worry you’re just procrastinating, but trust me, it’s useful.) You can feel free to be as goofy or wild as you want–you’re just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. And it’s cool because you’re working on your book anywhere and everywhere: in the shower, walking your dog, on line at the bank, riding the train, reading other books, watching TV, in meetings at work. A little part of my brain never stops thinking about my novel.

I can’t speak to every writer’s experience, but this is how my imagination works. The more I think about the story, the more ideas I have. Often, my subconscious mind makes connections that needed days, weeks, or months to develop. Initially, I avoided outlining because I wanted to give myself as much of that flexibility as possible to discover the story and let it develop organically, but I’ve since realized that outlining can also get you thinking about the whole thing much earlier, and there’s nothing limiting about it–it’s just one path, and you can take the story in different directions any time a better idea presents itself. I like research for the same reason; all that reading feeds me more ideas and opens up new possibilities.

pubcrawlSo this book I’m working on… It started with a lot of brainstorming and outlining, then I started drafting it and inevitably veered off from the outline a bit. I got some great notes from my editors, and I just completed the first major revision—a few hours ago. As I tried to re-imagine the plot and characters and come up with a better ending, the whole process reminded me of something very old, something from my childhood: Choose Your Own Adventure.

[Read the rest of this post at Pub(lishing) Crawl]

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alternate wednesday: mr. nobody

AltWed_Logo

Anyone who has read my books or my blog knows that I have a fascination with doppelgängers (doubles and lookalikes). Lately, I’ve been receiving some messages from friends and fans who wanted to let me know that Fair Coin now has its very own doppelgänger! What do you think?

doppelgangers

I wonder if the people who designed the poster for the U.S. theatrical release of Mr. Nobody were perhaps influenced by the excellent book cover illustrated by Sam Weber. Oddly enough, back when Sam was brainstorming ideas for Fair Coin, I remember him noting that he wanted to go for a movie poster aesthetic. Well done!

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Nobody sounds like an amazing film — exactly the sort of thing I will like. Apparently it premiered in 2009 at some international festivals and has already been released (with different posters) with a cult following. It’s only now just hitting the U.S. Here’s the synopsis from the film’s Facebook page:

nobodycoinA young boy stands on a station platform. The train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother or stay with his father? An infinity of possibilities rise from this decision. As long as he doesn’t choose, anything is possible.

Yeah, sign me up for that! Mr. Nobody will be released for iTunes and on demand next week and theatrically in November; now that it’s on my radar, I am definitely going to see it sooner than later. Hopefully it will do a doppelgängbusters box office, so one day there will really be a Fair Coin movie poster in our universe! :)

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links to the past

Apologies for the lack of my Alternate Wednesday posts of late; oddly enough, it’s a matter of not having enough time for them. I thought the biweekly schedule would be manageable, but with a novel to revise and multiple deadlines for various projects (including several other blogs I contribute to–see below), it has been the easiest thing to put aside. But I enjoy writing them, and I hope some of you enjoy reading them, so they will continue–but perhaps on a sporadic basis for the moment.

"Yesterday's Enterprise"That said, I’m double-dipping this week. It’s no surprise that many of my favorite episodes of Star Trek (in all its incarnations) involve time travel and/or alternate realities. So last week I was happy to cover one of the very best of these in the ongoing Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch at The Viewscreen: “Yesterday’s Enterprise“. Here’s an excerpt:

But I tell you, this episode is exciting, not least because it fills in some of the time between Kirk’s era and the TNG years, with the introduction of the Enterprise-C. (It hits some of the same buttons for me that “Babylon Squared” on Babylon 5 does, my favorite episode of the first season in which the Babylon 4 station reappears due to a temporal anomaly…) And I love this vessel, a beautiful melding of the best features of the Constitution-class and Galaxy-class designs. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” also has high stakes, gruesome deaths, and it looks and sounds more cinematic than anything on the show previously. I’m also a sucker for stories in which one ship or one person makes a huge impact for others–even in failure; we always root for the Enterprise to survive, but the idea that one crew’s sacrifice could still be a victory of sorts is gratifying.

Pop over there to see my episode recap and read reviews by me, Torie Atkinson, and our fine commenters.

I also had two other guest blog posts this week, if you haven’t had enough of me:

And finally, here’s a link to download a free PDF of Sybil’s Garage No. 7, which among many fantastic pieces includes one of my favorite short stories that I’ve written, “My Father’s Eyes”. It’s even kind of YA-ish, though with a slightly older main character, a photographer named Ambrose. And here’s the editor talking about the issue, Anne Frank, Justin Bieber, and the band Neutral Milk Hotel.

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alternate wednesday: doppelgängers

My wife and I adopted a rescue dog a couple of months ago, so I’ve been taking two or three extra walks a day, which have turned out to be perfect for listening to podcasts of This American Life. I love the radio program, but I didn’t always have time for it because I tend to prefer reading during my commute, and there are books, movies, and video games competing for my free time at home. Still, the Android app for the show was my first paid download when I got a Droid phone, and now I’m actually getting a lot more use out of it.

Anyway, I was astonished the other day when I heard the January 11, 2013 episode, “Doppelgängers.” As you might be aware, a doppelgänger is an identical twin, what Wikipedia defines as “a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune.” The German word literally translates as “double goer.” Doppelgängers are staples of parallel universe and time travel stories, but it seems they appear in pretty much every genre, whether in a purely symbolic representation in literary fiction or something more sinister in horror. As fascinating as it might be to encounter someone who looks just like you, who might have led a life different from your own, the possibility of being replaced by your duplicate–cloned or dimensional or whatever–is terrifying.

The episode of This American Life is much more grounded in reality, but some of the implications raised by its stories are no less horrific. The hour-long program is often startling, humorous, sobering and profound, presenting two pieces that celebrate the redemptive power of pork bung and compare and contrast life in Philadelphia with the war in Afghanistan. Check it out:

And for something completely different, here’s one of my favorite stories about doppelgängers, an eerie Twilight Zone episode titled “Mirror Image.”

What’s your favorite book, movie, comic, or TV show about doppelgängers?

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