Alternities by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Boy, there wasn’t a single character in this book that was likeable. Not one. The protagonist, Rayne Wallace, a “Runner” who goes between alternate versions of America, is an absolute asshole to his wife, who in turn is a total bitch to him. Wonderful marriage. In one of the worlds he visits, he happens upon an alternate old crush named Shan. We’re supposed to applaud their falling in love as he can start a new life, possibly, and finally be happy. Never mind that he’s cheating on his wife and leaving his little girl in the dust. Shan seems somewhat likeable — until she turns him in to the government because of a strange gift he brings her from his world, thus ensuring his capture and interrogation, leading to the climax of the book.
There’s also President Robinson, who’s a psychotic intent upon starting a nuclear war with Russia, which in this world (the “Home” alternity) is a big bully to pussycat America and which has its nuclear subs appearing in our ports. Robinson’s out to change that and nukes one of their subs, which is only a precursor to what he intends to do. And he intends to use these alternate Earths as escape vehicles for he and his government cronies so that they can continue to dominate worlds while their America is obliterated by Russian nukes. Real nutjob.
Then there’s Senator Endicott, who discovered the “gates” to these alternative Americas, although we’re never told how. He has women from these alternaties brought over for him to serve as sex slaves whom he ultimately murders. And he murders others in his quest for power. Real nice character. He tortures these women first, by the way.
Tackett and O’Neil are also characters and perhaps we can identify with them a bit because they’re opposed to Robinson’s plans, but O’Neil’s a whiner and Tackett is in the dark, which is surprising because he heads the intelligence unit that utilizes these gates to steal things from alternate Americas and bring them back to improve the “Home” America’s chances of evening the playing field with the Russians.
Then there’s the mysterious maze that lies between the alternate gates with its own demon that destroys people it encounters. That’s never really satisfactorily explained, although the author tries to late in the book, to my dissatisfaction.
I wanted to give this book four stars because I like alternate world stories — Philip K Dick has it down. But the characters in this book have no redeeming qualities and I hated just about everyone I encountered and everything they stood for in this book, and for that reason alone, I can’t recommend it.