To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep no more; and by a sleep, to say we end The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks that Flesh is heir to?
You may be wondering why I’m quoting from Hamlet by William Shakespeare here – but that’s kinda the main theme in this book I’m about review. Try to imagine Shakespeare, mix in a little bit of Doctor Who style time travel and add in elements of John Lennon’s assassination and what do you get? Twinned Universes by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan.
About The Author
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan started reading at the age of three and only stops when absolutely required to. Although she hasn’t been writing quite that long, she did compose a very simple play in German during middle school. Her science fiction novella Move Over Ms. L. (an early version of Lyon’s Legacy) earned an Honorable Mention in the 2001 UPC Science Fiction Awards, and her short story “A Reptile at the Reunion” was published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. She is a founding member of BroadUniverse and a long-time member of the Online Writing Workshop for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology/English, and she has a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree. Her current day job is in the laboratory of an enzyme company; she’s also been a technical writer and a part-time copyeditor for a local newspaper. Some of her other accomplishments are losing on Jeopardy! And taking a stuffed orca to three continents. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Eugene; and son, Alex. In her rare moments of free time, she enjoys crocheting, listening to classic rock (particularly the Beatles), and watching improv comedy.
Here we see our hero Paul and the two Universes (hence the title of course). I kinda like this – it’s almost symbolic of the fact that Paul is not just carrying the weight of the world – but TWO worlds! Or maybe I’m just reading too much into that. Either way it’s a decent enough cover and captures the feel of the book.
Paul is an actor on 21st Century Earth and his biggest ambition is to play Hamlet in the play – well, Hamlet. But the death of his mother sparks off a chain of events that leads Paul to discover that a) his death may have been orchestrated by his great uncle Jack (or Jackass as he’s referred to in this book), b) he is not a relative of Sean (a TwenCen musician) but rather his clone, and c) his uncle is a giant p****! The only way he’s gonna get any answers is by heading towards 20th Century Earth and trying to save Sean – and find out more details about his mother’s death in the process. Oh, and did I mention that there is a wormhole between the two Universes that could cause a serious kerfuffle if this all goes wrong?
So that’s the set up of the book, and I must admit that it’s a pretty decent one. I’ve always liked the idea of time travel and the cool science that goes with it (even though I am not a science geek). The problem is that sometimes these sorts of stories tend to be bogged down in all sorts of technobabble and timey-wimey sort of plot points, making the story needlessly convoluted and hard to follow. Fortunately that doesn’t happen here, and the plot is for the most part easy to keep up with. There were a couple of times where I got lost and had to re-read it again, but otherwise it was great.
Secondly, I do like the John Lennon inspiration behind the character of Sean. Indeed, it would be an interesting thing to wonder what could have happened if someone stopped the shooting of John Lennon and this is an interesting concept. Not only that, but the idea of Paul being a clone does raise a lot of moral and ethical questions – are clones human? Should they have the same rights as people? That was an interesting mortal dilemma that we have seen plenty of times before, but it works just as well here as it does anywhere else.
The one thing I did find a little bit strange was when Paul seemed to gather some strange powers – possibly as a result of the time travel. This I’m not sure what really added or detracted from the story and it probably would have worked just as well without it – or it could just be that I missed something the first time round. Also, I felt that there was a little too much faffing around at the beginning before Paul went to TwenCen (that’s a cool word by the way) Earth and that it could have got to that part a little quicker for my tastes.
The book is supposed to be aimed at YA audiences, but there are a few cases of F-bombs being dropped here and there. They are totally justified within the story, but this does mean the book will not be suitable to younger readers.
Finally, although this is a sequel, it is in itself a self contained story – so you do not have to have read the first book to understand what is going on, which is a bonus.
PROS (To be or not to be):
- Interesting concepts.
- Not overly complicated like some sci-fi, making it easy to read.
- Great science fiction mixed in with some real life themes.
- A self contained story, so you do not need to read the first book to understand it.
CONS (Get thee to a nunnery):
- Plot a little slow in places.
- Strong language means it is unsuitable for younger readers.
On the whole, Twinned Universes a pretty good story. It’s easy to follow, doesn’t bog you down in technobabble and it introduces you to some Shakespeare as well – which can only be a good thing. If you don’t mind the odd f-bomb here and there, and enjoy a nice, easy to read novel, then please give this one a read.
FINAL SCORE: 4/5