Imagination-fueled Thrill Ride
Max and the Multiverse by Zachry Wheeler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Meet Max. Max is your typical teen from Albuquerque. It's Spring Break and Max's parents have left for Hawaii, leaving Max at home for the entire week. Max is in heaven since he can now play countless hours of video games. That would have been it, except that Max wakes up one morning with his cat, named Ross, talking to him with a British accent. What the... As it so happened Max's marathon gaming session caused him to crash into his keyboard where it just happened to strike the right sequence of keys so that the universe, in it's infinite wisdom, imprinted the ability for Max to shift between different universes in the great multiverse. Now, every time Max falls asleep and wakes up, he's in a different universe. Peachy. (The coincidence here happily reminds me of what happens in the cartoon Freakazoid - which involved a cat tapping out a specific sequence on a computer keyboard to send the main character into the internet and become Freakazoid.)
Now Max is shifting through the multiverse, experiencing a new universe with each new day. This is quite a shock to Max, and causes him no end of head banging until he comes to a universe where religion never fully developed and the human race has advanced to the point of traveling effortlessly through the stars. Score. Max decides to take a trip to Mars, bringing Ross along for the ride. The trip is side-tracked to Europa, and there Max's adventures really begin for it is on Europa that Max meets Zoey and Perra, two orange-skinned Mulgawats who earn a living delivering rare and dangerous cargo for the PCDS - Precious Cargo Delivery Service. Max soon finds himself in a fight to keep an ancient artifact out of the hands of the universe's most dangerous person, Lord Essien.
Max and the Multiverse is a roller-coaster of a trip, fast-paced and filled with excitement. Max is unwittingly brought along for this ride, and spends a fair amount of time flabbergasted by what he sees and experiences, but by the end he decides that the roller coaster is much more exciting than the life he had back on Earth. Wheeler has created a setting (universe? multiverse?) where pretty much anything goes, the possibilities only limited by the ideas in his head. This is a imagination-fueled thrill ride so just sit back and enjoy the trip.
I do have a couple of (minor) quibbles, though I don't think either detracts from the overall fun of the story. One, as Max pops between the plethora of universes we don't know what happens to the universe that Max leaves each time he awakens. Max is Max, and seems to be a single point of reference as he always retains the memory of what he's done. As he slides through the multiverse, he interacts and causes change, and then the next morning he is gone and we don't see what sort of damage Max has caused, as the Max of that universe is back again, having to deal with what our Max has wrought. But this is very minor, and probably I'm the only one who really cares about it. My second quibble has to do with the villains in the story - Jai Ferenhal and Lord Essien, as I feel that they are a bit two-dimensional. Lord Essien, especially, seems to be nothing more than a caricature of a Sci-Fi villain, filled with hate and anger and little else. I like these villains, but they seem to only be there to prod Max and the others along and there is little development for them. I hope that they are given a chance to grow and become more developed in the next book.
highly recommend this book for anybody who is a fan of Douglas Adams and the worlds he created in his Hitchhiker's Guide series. Max, like Arthur Dent, is whisked along for the ride of his life, and is just as hapless most of the time. (Luckily, Max doesn't have to worry about keeping track of his towel or understand Vogon poetry.) Pick up a copy of Max and enjoy the ride.