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Book Review

Book Cover

An Anthology of Alternate Realities


Author: Preston Grassmann
Publisher: Titan Books
304 pages
RRP: £9.99, US $16.95, Cdn $22.95
ISBN: 978 1 80336 232 8
Publication Date: 11 April 2023

Titan Books publishes the paperback short story collection, Multiverses: An Anthology of Alternate Realities, edited by the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated Preston Grassmann. This is said to be the first anthology dedicated to multiverses and other realities – ideal for fans of science fiction, fantasy or the just plain weird! There are contributions by bestselling authors such as Clive Barker, Ken Liu, Ian McDonald, Alix E. Harrow, Charlie Jane Anders, Alastair Reynolds, Annalee Newitz, and others. The book is divided into the sections Parallel Worlds, Alternate Histories, and Fractured Realities, and incorporates 304 pages in total. The paper grade is lower and thinner than some previous releases from Titan, but for a paperback collection of author styles to investigate it’s more than adequate...

I should just mention, before we get onto the stories themselves, that there are two contributions from Clive Barker but neither are fictional tales. They are poems: one is practically over before it starts, and the other isn’t much longer. Neither are particularly impressive. I’ve enjoyed several Barker novels over the years, but it is somewhat misleading to use his name here as a pull.

I have always found it curious how it inevitably takes a while to settle comfortably into a different style from that what you’re used to reading. Superhero films and comics have made this sub-genre more commonplace these days – perhaps for first time since the crazy days of Philip K. Dick. As you might expect, there are some diverse concepts collected here; some more blatant science fiction jaunts, while others hint at much more subtle but potentially disastrous changes from the norm. Whilst there is a handful of intriguing gems, there are equally the inevitable few that paint an inventive fable only to flounder with the denouement – as if the time has abruptly run-out in a school essay-writing lesson and they have no idea how to end. Additionally, it’s curious how invariably the idea of Hitler and/or the Nazis rear their heads in multiple universe stories (I think Ray Bradbury started that with A Sound of Thunder).

The stand-out example in this genre for me is 'Nine Hundred Grandmothers', by Paul Di Filippo wherein the protagonist wastes his life taking and dealing dimensional drugs, only to be plagued by other versions of himself and alternate members of his rich, well-to-do family attempting to prompt him to change his ways. The ending is also somewhat ambiguous. Other notable examples include 'Banish', about the dilemma of operating to save the life of a war crimes killer who is still alive in another reality, but has not yet become that criminal; 'Crunchables', which explores the hazardous mundanities of doing a shop-run when other realities spontaneously impose themselves on established areas; and 'A Witch’s Guide to Escape', about a foster child who loses himself in the reality of fictional settings.

Whilst not exactly grabbing me as must-have compilation, Multiverses does have its moments of spontaneity and originality. Take a punt on it; this is how you sometimes build a long-time affiliation with an author or writing style.


Ty Power

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