Today, we have an annotated excerpt/sneak-peak from A Fractured Infinity by Nathan Tavares. Pitched as “a thrilling race across the multiverse to save the infinite Earths — and the love of your life — from total destruction”, this novel should appeal to “fans of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, The Time Traveller’s Wife and Rick and Morty.” (An interesting mix, there.) Here’s the synopsis:
Film-maker Hayes Figueiredo is struggling to finish the documentary of his heart when handsome physicist Yusuf Hassan shows up, claiming Hayes is the key to understanding the Envisioner – a mysterious device that can predict the future.
Hayes is taken to a top-secret research facility where he discovers his alternate self from an alternate universe created the Envisioner and sent it to his reality. Hayes studies footage of the other him, he discovers a self he doesn’t recognize, angry and obsessive, and footage of Yusuf… as his husband.
As Hayes finds himself falling for Yusuf, he studies the parallel universe and imagines the perfect life they will live together. But their lives are inextricably linked to the other reality, and when that couple’s story ends in tragedy Hayes realises he must do anything he can to save Yusuf’s life. Because there are infinite realities, but only one Yusuf.
With the fate of countless realities and his heart in his hands, Hayes leads Yusuf on the run, tumbling through a kaleidoscope of universes trying to save it all. But even escaping into infinity, Hayes is running out of space – soon he will have to decide how much he’s willing to pay to save the love of his life.
And here, in the cerebral sci-fi movie—not a blockbuster, not my style—based on the next year or so, the title card will roll. SOMETHING EVOCATIVE IN ALL CAPS. Cue the score, the swelling bwahhh bwahhhh chest-rattling synth undercut by tinkling wind chimes as the blackness fades. CUT to HAYES FIGUEIREDO on a beach in the furthest part of the multiverse you can dream up, staring out at a sea strewn with stars.
From the jump, I wanted to play with a screenplay-like form and let the reader know that this book was narrated by a main character speaking to an imagined audience (and starting a book almost mid-sentence was my hat-tip to Kurt Vonnegut, who taught me so much about writing). I just love movie trailers and my filmmaker main character does too. This was based specifically on the swelling Hans Zimmer score for the movie Inception. And if you haven’t seen it in a while, please google “Inception cat” which might be the funniest thing in the entire world.
I’ve seen a million versions of myself, on a million different worlds, so who knows who’d they’d cast as me. Hopefully some unknown who could say he got all Method and really mined his darkness to tackle the role of troubled filmmaker. Troubled, sure, even though the studio will cut most of the depressive bouts of self-medicating, and the functional alcoholism, and the MDMA-euphoria bonfires with the pack of other lost queers I lived with in my twenties, in that crumbling co-op we all called Saint Homo’s Home for Wayward Boys. All to focus on the story of the man I love and the futures I’ve seen where he has to die, again and again, so the world isn’t smashed to bits by an asteroid, or swallowed up by a rogue black hole, or nuked until it’s a glowing pile of ash.
HAYES (VOICE OVER)
Do you see all the stars out there? All the possibilities?
SLOW PAN out, following HAYES’S eyes out to sea, then the camera angle flips upside down and vaults into space, where an unassuming asteroid floats by the screen.
Hayes makes everything a screenplay, himself included with this little self-imagined character sketch. I wanted to make it clear that he’s a completely self-aware person who owns up to his flaws in a big way. Plus! I knew that not everyone is a fan of devices in stories. Starting so device-y was a way of telling the reader, “If devices aren’t you’re jam, maybe this book isn’t for you. But I hope they are, so hop in and buckle up.”
There’s nothing quite like the sunrise on the beach in this corner of the multiverse.
The juicy lemon wheel of the sun rises over the ocean and torches the horizon with the colors of fruit punch I used to drink as a kid. I rustle on the leaky air mattress, which sends a rubber balloon fart across the pink sand, towards the copse of beach grasses that thicken into what looks like ferns the size of redwoods. That graceful wakeup call would’ve gotten a smile out of Yusuf, not long ago. Before he left. He hasn’t been smiling lately. Just his dark, downturned eyes, and his short sentences.
I mean, of course I get it. It’s tough to tip your head to the sunlight when you know that billions of people have to die because you’re alive. And the man you love kept that from you.
I am a sucker for “starting at the end”-type stories. I knew I had to think of a frame for the narrative that would act like a breadcrumb trail to lure readers along. Openings and first quarters of books are such a challenge for me. There’s so much world-building, so much ground to cover, so many characters to introduce. Starting near the end of the narrative was a wink to the reader. Like, “Stay here with me a while and we’ll circle around to all these beats mentioned in this opening part.”
I putter around the camp for a while, with our ring-of-rocks fire pit and our improvised refrigerator that’s a shallow hole covered with palm fronds. The dunes of pink sand and the tropical forest of ferns with their coconuts that taste like bananas and their bananas that taste like coconuts. I’m alone on this island and the whole planet, as far as I can tell.
I knew the end was coming, so I woke up the past few mornings before Yusuf and tried to memorize every detail of him. The shadows on his cheeks from his beard. The swoops of his sooty eyebrows. His halo of black curls. The moles dotting his body like he’s a constellation of some ancient hunter.
SCENE: A sad man alone with a bunch of junk that seems washed ashore from a shipwreck.
I wish, sometimes, that I never crossed paths with that fucking machine. But then I never would’ve met Yusuf. The Envisioner, the huge, dark grey box with all its facets and spindly metal spider legs, sits about a quarter mile down the beach. You know how spiders can feel anything that brushes against their webs because all the strings give off a different vibration? I can feel the other universes like glowing threads when I press my hands against the machine.
I don’t know how the thing works exactly. Every sci-fi movie I’ve ever loved has had some hand-waving here and there. Let’s just take this premise and go with it, deal? I mean, I don’t know how airplanes exactly work either, but they do.
As much as this book was inspired by my interest in theoretical physics, I am by no means an expert. So this is Hayes telling you (as much as me, pulling the strings), “Look, don’t think about the details too much. Give me a pass if I get the science wrong.” I thought of Hayes’s voice like he was your friend and you both were at a bar after a long night. It’s mostly empty, just a few stragglers, and dirty tables, and soft music. You’ve both had a day, and suddenly he turns to you like, “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me.”
Anyway, the thing is a predictive device. It’s a gateway, sorta. It’s also a plague. A time-bomb fucking with reality on a multi-universal level. Yusuf talks a lot about knots in the fabric of multidimensional space-time, with each Envisioner a point connecting different paths. When he talks like this, words get all crammed together and I can’t make much sense of him or anything else.
The thing crunches a bunch of numbers and spits out predictions. There you go. You’re all caught up.