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It's Pico Time....,
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This review is from: Picoverse (Mass Market Paperback)
Despite a cover filled with the usual plaudits and glowing praise from various quarters, Metzger's novel of universe creation and alternate worlds ends up being a bit of a mess.
Katie and Jack are working alongside Professor Horst on a device called the Sonomak - a central gizmo into which forty-eight miniature particle accelerators are aimed. At a demonstration, Horst decides to go for broke and runs all forty-eight accelerators and creates a new universe, something which Anthony (Katie's autistic son) seems to have some knowledge of.
So where does it all go wrong? The science, it has to be said, cannot be faulted. Several critics have praised the science. Gregory Benford, of all people, has provided a glowing review, from which one can only deduce that either Metzger is one of Benford's pen-names or he has Benford's children locked away with a bomb and a digital timer.
The characterisation is very bad, and the motivation of the characters gets either so complex or so basic you want to shoot them.
When a new universe (or a picoverse) is created it is a duplicate of ours, but a lot smaller. Thus, in the first picoverse (where time moves much faster than ours) there was a duplicate Anthony who somehow made himself immortal, and then went insane. He calls himself Alpha.
Alpha then kidnaps the original Anthony and traps him in yet another universe. His mother gets such a maternal rage on that she is willing to kill billions of people to rescue her son. Metzger does not question the morality of this.
In the second picoverse, one of the main character's 'duplicates' enlists the help of Stalin and creates a Soviet Communist world. Metzger thinks that the way to make us see the evils of communism is to show them as a people obsessed with ugly architecture, boots and bombing people. It's very much a shallow one-sided debate. One really shouldn't waste a lot of time criticising the shallowness of this book, and one wouldn't, had this novel not been nominated for awards. Why?
Later, our heroes board an asteroid shuttle in which is a functioning biosphere peopled by Neanderthals (why is not made clear). Initially the travellers discover that the Neanderthals are vicious and aggressive cannibals, but soon after we are expected to believe that these particular specimens are highly evolved creatures, far superior to homo sapiens. Two of the Neanderthals turn out to be alternate versions of Anthony, one of whom is the genetically re-engineered Anthony from the first universe.
The denouement (just before which our amnesiac hero Jack remembers that he is an immortal from yet another universe) is sadly, just as confusing.
To be fair to Metzger, the scientific elements are handled in an exemplary fashion. This could have been an excellent piece of work had not the author attempted to combine the disparate elements of extra-universal superbeings and multiple copies of far too many central characters. This, coupled with the bafflingly swift changes of scene conspires to produce a work which annoys rather than excites.
One can only conclude that Metzger - in his debut novel - bit off rather more than he could chew. No doubt, in another smaller universe somewhere, a very good version of this novel is a best-seller.