The Walls of the Universe
John Rayburn's life has gone bad. He was a good student, athlete, quiet Ohio farm high school senior. Then he gave in to his temper and beat up Ted Carson and told off the boy's mother. Now he has to apologize or be suspended, affecting his chances to get into Case Western University. Now he comes face to face with...himself?
The other John Rayburn came from another Earth. He has been travelling from Earth to Earth. Each version is numbered. He has a device that lets him move through the intangible walls between each Earth. To save confusion, he calls himself John Prime. Prime shows John the device he uses to travel. Then he asks John questions. Does John know about the Rubik's Cube? How about the World Wide Web? Or MTV? Prime has a way for them to make lots of money. He learned ideas as he traveled. Now he'd like to offer John the chance to check out another universe, another Earth. He'll take John's place while John tries the device.
John finally agrees after Prime shows he can pass for John. John can't resist. He warns Prime about the problems with Ted Carson, then he's off. After looking around the next world, he discovers he can't get back when he thought. There seems to be a problem. Prime has tricked him.
Now he has to figure out how to fix the device for the proper return. He looks for a place to stay, then moves to Toledo and attends the university, He wants to study physics so he can figure out how to repair the device. Then he can return and resume his own life - if he can.
The Walls of the Universe was expanded from Paul Melko's award nominated novella "Walls of the Universe". Melko's novel is imaginative and fun. The basic idea has been done many times - many Earths existing in different universes (the television show Sliders comes immediately to mind), similar but slightly different due to people's decisions. The Walls of the Universe has a bright young man take his knowledge and try to return. But this takes time, so he interacts with people around him. Some he met before in his original universe, like his dream girl, Casey. There is an annoying physics professor who doesn't believe John knows much and has ridiculous ideas.
Melko gives John a solution to both traveling around the universes, lost, and a chance to return home. The ending is good, and leaves room for a sequel if he wants. The Walls of the Universe is an easy read that still gives the reader things to consider.
The ending of the book fits, yet doesn't feel right. Knowing this tale started as a novella explains that problem, but doesn't help. The last few chapters of The Walls of the Universe feel as if they are tagged on to extend the length of the story rather than tie it up well. It still a good book, but not a great one. Enjoy.
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