A Review of Finity

FinityFinity by John Barnes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finity was an interesting book to read. The premise isn’t new — alternate worlds and histories. I mean Philip K. Dick has the market cornered on that. But Barnes seems to take a fresh approach to this and I couldn’t put the book down. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

As the Goodreads description blurb reads, “A professor living in Auckland in a Reich-dominated world is recruited for private industry by a mysterious industrialist. Whenever he and his friends try to even think about the United States, it seems someone is trying to stop them–and even kill them.” Lyle is an astronomer recruited by ConTech, owned by a man named Iphwin, in the year 2062, when there are a number of German Reichs around the world, because Germany won World War II. Lyle is an American expat living in New Zealand with other expats. His girlfriend, Helen, is also a professor living the same type of life.

Lyle is hired by Iphwin for his abductive reasoning capabilities, and Helen is hired as his admin assistant. Before they even have a chance to celebrate, Lyle is attacked by Billie Beard, a female Reich goon. And strange things start to happen. First, Lyle’s talking boat/car has been messed with and its “brain” needs to be rebooted. Billie roughs him up on it. After he leaves to rendezvous with Helen, he discovers that he’s already taken her there, to Saigon, earlier in the day even though he has no recollection of it. In any event, he proposes and they get a diamond ring. They then go a restaurant to celebrate and he is attacked and shot at by a fat German tourist. To his utter shock, his meek little girlfriend pulls out a gun and and shoots the attacker. They’re both placed under arrest, where Lyle is shocked to find out his attacker was Billie Beard, again — not the fat German tourist. Helen also claims she saw Lyle get shot in the attack, when he clearly didn’t. Strange things are obviously occurring.

Lyle and Helen belong to a VR chat group. Iphwin places Lyle and Helen under his protection, but they are soon sent on a mission to rescue a ConTech employee in Mexico. When they get there, they are shocked to discover the members of their VR group are there too. Iphwin appears and tells them some things about the world(s) in which they live and why odd things are happening to each of them. He mentions that no one has had any contact with anyone in America for decades and wonders what’s happened to America and its occupants. They go on a trek to America to find out for themselves. They discover that the world has been run by quantum computers engaged in parallel computing and that there are innumerable worlds and people jump from one to another — without knowing it — when using the Net, phone, or their computer operated vehicles. That explains the hardened battle operative Helen Lyle saw kill Billie Beard in the restaurant as opposed to his usually mild Helen. Even more odd, Iphwin lets them know he’s one of these computing “phages” in human form and its his need to know what’s happened to America that allowed them all to gather together simultaneously in the same world to go on this journey with him.

Their trip is dangerous. Billie Beard, thought dead, keeps appearing, trying to kill them. Turns out she’s a phage too. Some of the group members are killed, but the survivors keep plugging along, determined to make it to a facility in Santa Fe called the Department of the Pursuit of Happiness. Iphwin thinks this will answer everything.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but I thought it too abrupt and unsatisfying. Barnes tries to tie everything up neatly, but it’s not what I would have done if I were writing it, nor is it what I want as a reader. Thus, I’m marking it down to four stars instead of five. Still, the book really was a thriller and hard to put down and I enjoyed reading it. I shall have to read more of Barnes now. Recommended.

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