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Broken Universe [Hardcover]

Paul Melko
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: £16.91
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Book Description

9 July 2012
Possessing technology that allows him to travel across alternate worlds, John Rayburn begins building a transdimensional commercial empire, led by him, his closest friends, and their doppelgangers from several different parallel universes. But not every version of every person is the same, and their agendas do not always coincide. Despite their benign intentions, the group's activities draw unwanted attention from other dimensional travellers who covet their technology and will kill anyone to control it, a threat that culminates in a nuclear standoff for dominance throughout the multiverse.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor (9 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076532914X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765329141
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,741,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Make[s] other writers wish they could pop into a close by universe, steal his book, and then come back and claim it for their own." --John Scalzi, bestselling and award-winning author of "Old Man's War "on "The Walls of the Universe " " Melko is wonderfully adept at creating well-nuanced characters living in skewed but familiar-feeling settings." "--"Cleveland "Plain Dealer " " Melko knows how to build suspense and drive a narrative forward." "--Locus"

About the Author

Hugo-nominated PAUL MELKO lives in Ohio.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars None 6 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I have read hundreds of sci fi novels over forty years. Without doubt, this is one of my favourites. I couldn`t put it down. Wonderful!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very fun read! 10 Jun 2012
By Daniel Jensen - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As far as sequels go, this book falls into the stereotype of not living up to its predecessor. While "Broken" is indeed a fun read and answers some questions while introducing us to new concepts, it is no "Walls" in terms of its sheer, "This is AWESOME!" factor. And I should clarify that statement. I have read better science fiction using the multiverse concept (James P. Hogan's "Paths to Otherwhere" is a must-read in this genre), but none were as fun as reading "Walls of the Universe". It covered the fun without being bogged down in the science. I smiled a lot while reading it - and that's saying a lot. "Broken Universe" is unfortunately the middle book of what appears to be a trilogy, so it has the tough job of living up to the first book while leaving us in enough suspense for the conclusion (although it should be noted that plenty is answered in this book making it worth the read).

The good:
-It's a fun, can't put down book.
-It answers many of the questions from "Walls".
-It poses a whole new slew of questions.
-It will make you smile!
-There are adventures in new universes!

The not-so-good:
-The writing seems a bit more clunky and simplistic.
-Plot seems rushed.
-A big heaping of Deux Ex Machina

I read the initial short story when it was published in "Asimov's" and was absolutely enthralled by the sheer wit and fun! This book reminded me of the books I read as a kid that got me interested in sci-fi. Fantastic and exciting! I was so taken that I even sent Melko an email after reading the short story and encouraged him to make a full novel (he responded and said he was in the process of doing so!).

Taken as a whole, "Broken" is a good sequel to "Walls", but it falls short of the first book's magic. Still, can't wait for the 3rd installment!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How your life could have gone x 10 11 Jun 2012
By A.M Donovan - Published on
What if you could really see what would have happened with your life if you had made different decisions? Everyone has imagined this; well Paul has managed to give it to us, with a difference. Instead of an international company, he has given us an interdimensional company, run by the same group of people in each multiverse. They are mostly the same, but with differences brought about by their individual choices in each of their individual universes. There are also two other dimension hopping groups introduced, one of which wants to wipe out our heroes because they are not individual, but just duplicate trash. Then there is another group that wants to wipe out our heroes, because they dimension hop. After all, only the Vig are allowed to dimension hop (for the good of the multiverse). The Vig have wiped out entire worlds for this "crime". Keep in mind, these are individual people (even if they are all named John, Grace, Henry and Casey) and not all of them are good people. There is one version that is definitely working on being a bad guy. Luckily, most of the versions want to do the right thing and are trying to. Even when it involves threatening the Vig with nukes. This was well done with a subject that could have become very confusing in short order. I did receive this book to review.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Broken Alternative Universe Science Fiction 5 Jun 2012
By Justin Pace - Published on
Broken Universe is the sequel to alternate universe novel The Walls of the Universe. In The Walls, Farmboy John's doppelganger (himself, from an alternate universe; John Prime), gave him a device that would allow him to move from one alternate universe to another (the universes being identical but for different decisions made, with small or large consequences), but wouldn't allow him to move back, including to his home. The Walls ended with Farmboy John figuring out how to build a gate of his own to allow backward travel between the universes. Farmboy John, Grace, Henry, and their doppelgangers begin to use the device and its replicas to begin building a cross-universe business empire. Complications predictably ensue.

I can't exactly say that Broken Universe picks up where The Walls of the Universe drops off, because it changes the last scene of The Walls, without explanation and without need. Presumably it was done to inject some oomph into Broken's open, but it was jarring to read directly after finishing The Walls. It's also just lazy writing; Melko could have easily created the desired emotion without rewriting his earlier work. This is, unfortunately, a significant complaint for Broken. Plot, logic, and scientific holes abound.

The first half of Broken is, like the middle third of The Walls, heavy on the nuts-and-bolts of cross-universe business. I think I enjoyed it more than most in The Walls, given my general interest in business and in entrepreneurship in particular, and it continues to raise interesting questions (Is there anything wrong with stealing an idea from one universe and making money off of it in another? After all, they're creating value in the new universe by giving them something they presumable want and would not otherwise have, and they're doing it using technology only they have.), but much of the suspense of The Walls is lacking. When antagonists arrive offering threats to more than their business interests, they're somewhat disappointing. On the other hand, the action sequences in the second half of the book are pretty good, and Melko doesn't pull any punches.

I would recommend Broken to anyone who thoroughly enjoyed The Walls. If you finished The Walls unsure whether you wanted to continue, you can probably live without Broken. Melko does answer a lot of the questions left from The Walls, albeit not all, and there is no obvious sequel hook. He also explores a lot of the themes of The Walls and implications of alternate universes in greater depth.

Disclosure: I won an ARC of Broken Universes through a sweepstakes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars how about a table of characters and universes ? 10 Jun 2012
By W Boudville - Published on
Unlike all the previous 4 reviewers, I had not the pleasure of reading the original short story in Asimov's, or the first book in this series, which looks bound to be at least a trilogy. Instead, I just stumbled across it and found a pleasurable though somewhat indecisive read.

The idea of parallel universes and most crucially the means to traverse them is a compelling one in science fiction. Closely related to the idea of time travel, though the latter is in the context of just one universe. For parallel universes, the gathered short stories by Keith Laumer, Worlds of the Imperium was a favourite of mine. So too the recent S M Stirling gem, Conquistador: A Novel of Alternate History. The latter had the travel gizmo being furnished deux ex machina by some unknown ultra advanced entity, and there was only one of these portals.

In contrast, Melko's tale has a bunch of chaps, undergraduates really, being able to reverse engineer a portal. Now if you read and loved the above works by other authors, you probably wanted more. Alas, Laumer is decades gone, and Stirling has shifted his focus elsewhere. So Melko offers new twists and will almost certainly maintain his series for the near future. An attraction for you. The closest recent text would be Gould's Wildside. Especially in the teenage or 20s ages of its protagonists. Both Gould and Melko's books are well suited for the young adult section of a bookstore, though I hasten to add that anyone can enjoy either.

But when it comes to showing human worlds at different stages of development, Melko affords the reader some quiet laughs. The worlds without personal computers, where the introduction of one with a floppy disk (sic) is high tech! That was a nice understated touch. Melko plays off one difference, and yet reveals a still existing 20 year gap with our world. The humour derives from the reader's appreciation of both factors. There is an element of accord with Charles Stross' acclaimed Merchant Princes series, The Family Trade (Merchant Princes) and The Hidden Family: Book Two of Merchant Princes etc. Though Stross makes far more extreme divergences between his Earths; one being grotesquely medieval and another being our 21st century.

Some of the Melko story seems awkward. The lead protagonist can come off as prissy with weird hangups. Notably, he baulks at arbitrage. Buying something cheap in one universe and selling it for far more in another that values the item. This is in all essence the same as the most elemental mechanism of geographical arbitrage in our (presumably) single universe. Where you might buy used denim or 1950s Americana items in the US Midwest and flog these for far more in SF or LA. I kid you not. People actually do this. Is it immoral? Textbooks on elementary economics could brief you on the advantage of finding and taking advantage of such arbitrage. Other real world (pun intended) examples include those who wake early and haunt yard and estate sales to find cheaply overlooked collectibles, which might then be hawked on eBay or Etsy or, yes, Amazon. One of the driving forces of the commercial Web since 1995 was how it furnished the mass outlet channel, where the inlet is those asymmetric geographically constrained sources.

A big commonality between Melko and Stross is embedded in this arbitrage of cross world trade. Coupled with problems in both plots of scheduling and optimising the physical bandwidth of traversing the dimensions. Readers of Stross will rapidly twig the transportation problems encountered by Melko's characters. While they solve these differently from Stross, the bottlenecks in both tales are important for introducing plot complications.

The Gothic bad chaps in the novel just come off as 100% cardboard. Inept. It is ludicrous that they, as owners of the largest corporation in 1 universe and being ruthless, would just largely confine themselves to serving takeover writs on the heroes for control of the board of directors.

I do have suggestions for improvements to a third book. The current practice of listing a universe by its 4 digit number or even by a short descriptor, like Nuclear Winter or Pleistocene, can be confusing. Ditto and maybe even more so for the characters. Most major characters have their doppelgangers in other universes, and these people collectively of course have the same given name, like Lucy or Ralph. So keeping track of the differences between Lucy 7105 and Lucy 7371 can be hazy. The book addresses this by largely replacing such monikers with nicknames, like Lucy Quayle or Lucy Home. Good. But how about a list of characters at the end of the book, with a summary of what we need to know about them. Ditto for their universes. Hey, given that the universes are in numerical order, maybe give us a simple table or graph of those universes in that order. There is a rough metric embedded in the numbering and the table might help us appreciate more the plot travails.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars solid three but flawed 7 Jun 2012
By B. Capossere - Published on
In The Broken Universe, Paul Melko returns to the world of his Walls of the Universe, expanding on both the universe count and the character count, as well as greatly raising the stakes. While doing so, unfortunately, he also carries over some of the first book's flaws, making the sequel, like book one, a solid but uninspiring read.

The book picks up pretty much were Walls of the Universe finished, soon after the defeat of the Alerians (since you pretty much have to have read book one to fully follow Broken Universe, I'm going to assume you've done so). It's taken them almost two months to return to their home universe, and in that time the remaining Alerians have regrouped and are ready to cause John's group some serious problems, ranging from deadly attacks to legal assaults on the Pinball Wizards Transdimensional Company to theft of the company's transport machines and designs. The conflict between the Alerians and John's group is one main storyline. Another introduces a new group--the Vig-- who seems to see it as their task to enforce transdimensional travel, with lethal force if necessary. Another story line involves John's decision to move the Pinball Wizards away from simply monetary gain toward using their technology to do good, one such example being to transfer refugees from the nuclear winter world to the unsettled paleo-world, both of which he'd visited in book one. To deal with all three issues, the company goes on a recruiting binge, finding their duplicates in other universes, explaining the situation, and having them set up branch offices in their own universes. More personal story arcs involve John's continuing concern that he is becoming hardened and more like John Prime and the continuing impact on Grace of her being tortured by the Alerians back in book one. The two major conflicts come to a boil by the end of the book and the violence and body count that we'd seen in book one is ratcheted pretty high up the scales by the end of The Broken Universe.

The strengths of this book are similar to the positive elements of its predecessor. The focus on John's character as he adapts to new situations and tries to keep a gauge on himself--trying to keep himself from becoming fully like his counterpart in John Prime, and also as he begins to move into the role as an actual leader. Grace's attempt to deal with her trauma is handled less fully, but is a welcome bit of seriousness; many authors would have just dropped the entire torture incident a few pages after she was rescued. The question of the value of a life (and of relationships) in a multiple universe continues to be explored in interesting fashion. And again, the prose moves us speedily, smoothly, and easily through a most engaging plot. Melko's decision to raise the stakes, so that larger groups of people, indeed, entire worlds are in danger, was a good decision for a sequel, as was the introduction of new universes and a new villain.

But as mentioned, if the strengths are similar, so are the weaknesses. The prose continues to be adequate but nothing that will stick in your mind for any length of time at all (as mentioned in my review of Walls of the Universe, I recognize this isn't a flaw to everyone). Once again, too many things happen too easily, including the same problem of people accepting the entire premise of multiple universes far too quickly. The villains are again too cartoonish and too inept, plus a bit inconsistent. It's hard to get very worked up about a villainous plot involving a board meeting, and even harder to get worked up over the villains when the board meeting they've stacked doesn't do what they want. And it's hard to imagine the bad guys giving John the time he needs to complete a certain task early on. There are pacing issues once more, in this case too much time spent on the legal issues surrounding the business. And though we see more universes, too many are too similar--the most interesting one we barely spend any page time on.
A few new issues also arise. One is that there is too much clumsy recap in the first few chapters; the narrative would have been far better served with a simple prologue separate from the story. Another is that the conflict seems to spin a bit out of control too quickly. And finally, without giving any details, I have to say the ending was a major problem for me. But without those spoiler details, I can't say much beyond that.

All of this puts The Broken Universe, like the first book, into the solid three category. It isn't a bad book, if you pick it up you'll probably end up satisfied overall if dissatisfied by aspects, but there's enough out there that is better that I wouldn't recommend it as a primary option.
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