Map of Blue Book Balloon

13 April 2023

#Blogtour #Review - Infinity Gate by MR Carey

Book "Infinity Gate" by M R Carey. Darkness, with distant stars. In the left, a planet formed from narrow vertical stripes each of which shows its image in a different overall hue - so one is green-blue, another orange, another very dark red-black and so on. Some of the stripes extend beyond the orb of the planet, and some are displaced so that the star field can bee seen within its boundary. Rising beyond the top right of the planet is a bright light - a sun or a moon?
Infinity Gate (Book One of The Pandominion)
MR Carey
Orbit, 30 March 2023 
Available as: HB, 512pp, e, audio   
Source: Advance copy
ISBN(HB): 9780356518015

I'm grateful to Orbit for sending me a copy of Infinity Gate to consider for review, and to Tracy for inviting me to join the book's blogtour.

It feels a long time since the last new book by MR Carey, but Infinity Gate was certainly worth waiting for. Set across multiple Earths, and mainly in various instances of Lagos, the book delves into the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics - that every time something can go two ways, it goes both, splitting the universe into a structure with countless branches. The twist here is that on some of those worlds at least, that reality is understood, and travel between universes - or at least Earths - is regular.

In contrast, we're introduced to Hadiz Tambuwal, a scientist on our Earth (or at least one very like our own) where climate change, pollution, and warfare are close to destroying civilisation. Working at a research institue which has brought together the best minds on the planet to find a solution, she stumbles on something that may well help - but is it too late?

I loved this book's bold, very classically SF approach to the possibility of other Earths, other worlds, first hitting us with a Big Idea then dismantling it by showing the consequences. The stars themselves may be massively out of rich - but given the prospect of boundless resources less than an atom's breadth away, surely all our problem are solved? If the problem is shortage of stuff, rather than its distribution and management, everything will be alright, won't it? 

No it won't, is the answer that Infinity Gate provides. Behind the veil of the many worlds, we see a society plagued by the same problems as our own - in particular, a colonialist, grasping perspective that sees anything strange as Other and to be overcome. The Pandominion, a network of parallel Earths that have discovered one another and more or less federated, miscalculates spectacularly when it meets a society that is very Other indeed. That is a special irony when its "humanity" is composed of multiple species, from multiple worlds, many of them with a different evolutionary history than H. Sapiens. The Pando thinks of itself as the ideal, most evolved society there can be but it still relies on a massive armed force to secure its ends, it fights endless wars, and oh, when you have a big hammer, what does every problem look like?

We are led from Hadiz's very particular, very personal difficulties to a wider perspective. She is first presented as a sort of Robinson Crusoe figure, left marooned on a dying world, albeit provided with an abundance of resources (abundance and scarcity are central concepts in this book) and with an inkling of how to build a life-raft. As a somewhat introverted scientist who's already more or less cut herself off from friends and family, she doesn't have too much problem with being solitary, but then, as one can see coming, she will also have to cope with the multiverse being less solitary than she expects.

How she copes with that is one strand in this book but Carey follows other characters too - there's also Essien, a rogue (so-called here) who grew up in the harsh Lagos slums and bears their scars, and Topaz, a schoolgirl from a planet populated by rabbit descendents. Much of this story shows how the chain of events that Hadiz sets going influences all three. It's a story of intelligence and adaptability set against crushing forces, of cross and double-cross, of desperate combat and last-moment escapes. On the way we see the brutality of the military, grinding poverty, and bureaucratic cruelty as well as courage and solidarity. 

I particularly enjoyed how the story juxtaposes "big" themes - politics and the futures of worlds - and petty, self-serving ones. Also, human frailty and stupidity.

It is a gripping and imaginatively bold novel, a magnificent start to a series and I hope I can read the next part soon! 

For more information about Infinity Gate, see the publisher's website here - and of course the other stops on the blogtour which you can see listed on the poster below. 

You can buy Infinity Gate from your local high street bookshop or online from Bookshop UK, Hive Books, Blackwell's, Foyle's, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.

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