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10 Mind-Blowing Reads About the Multiverse

In a real sense, you could argue that every book is another reality. The best of them certainly feel like self-contained worlds, and when you have library, you have a multiverse.

If the universe is indeed infinite, then it’s possible there’s a version of Earth out there where Hamlet is a history play, not a made-up tragedy. There’s a version where Juliet doesn’t take her fake suicide drug early, Friar John lets Romeo know what’s going on, and there’s a happy ending. (Heck, I think they may have even made that version in the Victorian era, or was that Lear?) So, if every book is a new universe, how to come up with a sensible list of books about the multiverse?

As in many things, I’d start with Plato. In his philosophy, there’s this “ideal” realm, of which our world is just a shadow. And that describes a lot of the multiverse stories out there, for example, DC’s Earth Prime. When you look at the list, you’ll see that this Platonic idea of an original reality tends to skew towards fantasy stories, which I find interesting.

The other category? The kind based on the many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, suggested by the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox. Many of these stories, such as my most recent novel, Alpha Max, tend to be more rooted in science fiction ideas than fantasy.

Plato’s Apprentices

The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

I still love this fantasy series from the 70s. Zelazny’s world-building is vivid. His characters are well drawn and the plots pull you from chapter-to-chapter, book-to-book. In this series, Amber is the prime world, and all other iterations of it are shadows, or echoes, of the original. Travel between worlds can only be achieved by the royal family of Amber, or by using magical portals that connect them personally. So, one character can draw another to the world they are on by “pulling” them through. Start with Nine Princes in Amber, and you can thank me later.

The Eternal Champion, by Michael Moorcock

This is a novel, but the eternal champion is also a concept that runs through many of Moorcock’s works; in every iteration of the multiverse, there is a tragic hero who must keep the cosmic balance. (In fact, this is the book in which Moorcock is the coins the term, multiverse.) Sometimes they must bring chaos to the world, and sometimes law. Personally, my favorite of all these heroes is Corum of the Silver Hand. (Reminiscent of the Irish myth of Nuadda.) Start with The Knight of the Swords.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series), by C.S. Forester
  • His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
  • The Dark Tower (series), by Stephen King

Schrodinger’s Cat Fanciers

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - an SF thriller about the multiverse

This is a thriller of a SF tale and it’s really one of the few books that truly uses the multiverse to full effect. It’s about a physicist who is drugged, kidnapped, and left in a parallel universe where he never married his wife. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but the protagonist ends up visiting many different iterations of his hometown of Chicago. One of the other things I loved about this book, which I read after I’d finished writing Alpha Max, was the idea that our state of consciousness has an impact on what reality we can visit. This is a central idea in my own book, and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that someone else came up with it. Of course, Crouch’s approach is totally different from mine.

The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick

cover art for the man in the high castle by philip k. dick

This is technically more of an alternate history book, but I would suggest that genre is actually a sub-set of multiverse narratives. I just love Dick’s novel so much because it blew my mind wide open when I first read it. (I think I would have been fourteen or fifteen.) It posits a reality in which the Axis Powers won WWII, and split America between the Nazis and the Japanese. Filled with mysticism, some of the characters are able to understand that there are other versions of history where this terrible fate did not occur. As a bonus, there is the TV series version of this title – the first season is very true to the book, and seasons two and three do a nice job of extrapolating how the multiverse aspects could be even more important to the plot.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Firebird (series), by Claudia Grey
  • The Long Earth (series), by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • A Time and a Place, by Joe Mahoney

Have I missed any of your faves? Let me know !

And if you haven’t already checked out my contribution to the genre, the purchase link is below.

Read Alpha Max Now!