A Tuesday Ten: Scenes from the Multiverse
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
The multiverse. If we’re dealing in Science Fictional terms there’s an entire theory at work that says that there are a possible infinite number of parallel universes. Given this, anything is possible, in any sort of arrangement. This means that there could be a world just like our own, but where the US didn’t win our war for Independence. Or it could be a world where the sentient life was pine tree-like. Fantasy multiverse takes the idea of a secret passage between our world and another magical place, and opens it up–there are all sorts of other worlds out there just behind a wardrobe, a cabinet or a mirror.
There are plenty of stories where characters might travel to a singular other world. But it’s fairly rare to get more than one. For this list, I’m focusing on books that have plot points that involve at least 3 worlds. That makes it a trickier list, but far from impossible.
The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Books, c1988)
Diana Wynne Jones may not have been the first to use a multiverse in her children’s fiction, but she can probably be crowned the master of doing so. Her entire Chrestomanci series is based in a multiverse setting, for starters. Christopher Chant here is a nine-life enchanter which means in all eight other worlds that branch out with his own, a version of him never came to be: all those lives reside in his one body. The position of “Chrestomanci” requires that the holder of the job be a nine-life enchanter, so whether he wishes it or no, Christopher is going to be trained to take up the role some day. We travel to a wild range of worlds with Christopher throughout the story. While the multiverse aspect gets used in other plots, here it really is central.
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2007)
A hundred cupboards line the wall of the room in the house where young Henry is staying. They’ve been covered over with plaster and hidden for years, but now a cupboard handle has broken through and has begun to turn . . . Henry clears off the plaster to find all the strange cupboard doors, and quickly discovers they lead to all sorts of odd places–places that don’t seem to be part of the same world he lives in. The cupboards are indeed doors to other worlds, but many of those worlds are not nice places to visit . . . or to have visit you! Henry’s adventures and world-hopping are just beginning in this first book of N.D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy.
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Expected Publication November 2014)
This is the book that prompted my Tuesday Ten subject matter! Merrill of Earth and Fin of Khaznot Quay have wound up aboard a ship that can traverse the Pirate Stream–a stream that’s not really water at all, but pure creative magic. But navigating the Pirate Stream and figuring out how to get where you wish most to go may take one very remarkable map–The Map to Everywhere. Merrill and Fin are on a quest to find it, but others are hot on their trail who want the map for themselves. A rollicking multiverse adventure with plenty of visited worlds and wild magic.
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (Macmillan Publishing Company, c1955)
I’m sure some folks thought of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when this topic was first brought up. But in that story, the characters really only travel to one other world–which doesn’t meet my criteria. It isn’t until this book in the Chronicles of Narnia (#1 or #6) depending on your thinking, that Lewis reveals he’s working in a multiverse. Rather than a trip straight to Narnia, the way most of our characters have done it, Polly and Digory use Digory’s uncle’s discovery of world-traveling rings to go to a place which is full of trees and ponds. Each of these ponds appears to be a portal to another world. They only travel to two other worlds other than Earth, but the appearance of the middling space indicates that there are lots of other universes out there to be explored.
Thresholds by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Viking, 2010)
Maya’s family has moved to a new community, and her new neighbors are a trifle . . . unusual. Well, actually make that a lot unusual–which Maya finds out after she has a fairy fly into her room one night. It seems Maya’s neighbors actually have a portal to access other worlds in their basement. They are one of the families sworn to protect and guard such gateways all their lives, and as such can’t go too far from the location of the gateway. Maya suddenly finds magic and excitement in her life that she never thought she’d find again. This story may not have a lot of conflict, but it’s rich magic, wonder and detail make it a delight. The second book in this series, Meeting, came out in 2011.
The Three Pigs by David Wiesner (Clarion, c2001)
Why, yes I am including the 2002 Caldecott medal winner here. If you aren’t already familiar with this picture book, please read it at your next opportunity. And yes, we are dealing in multiverses here. Because, you see, the pigs get blown out of their own story by the big bad wolf and wind up having a wild and wacky literary adventure exploring other book worlds out there. While this may not be a traditional multiverse, I’m counting it in my list. This book is a favorite in my household with the entire family. I promise you’ll never see this classic nursery tale the same way again!
Ripple Effect by Timothy J. Bradley (Argosy Press, March 2014)
This second book in the Sci Hi series takes our character deep under water to a lab that’s testing the world’s first large scale fusion reactor. But things don’t go as planned (do they ever?). Scientists start disappearing and strange creatures start appearing. It seems that the fusion reactor has drawn the attention of an interdimensional predator–and now it’s going to be up to Sidney and his friends to stop it! This is perhaps my one true science fictional multiverse–Tim Bradley brings up the actual theory of other universes existing parallel to our own, and lets us just begin to glimpse them.
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (Knopf books, c1996)
While the trilogy of His Dark Materials relies on the framework of the multiverse for the entire story arc, the multiple universe only enter in at the very end of the first book, and become more pronounced in this, the second book. Lyra and a boy from our Oxford, Will, meet in an odd and frightening world of specters. Readers travel with our protagonists through a number of different worlds, and the access points to those worlds becomes a key turn point to the entire story.
Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves (HarperCollins, c2007)
Yup, this one’s a Neil Gaiman–at least in part. Joey Harker is just your ordinary kid who suddenly discovers that his Earth isn’t the only one. There are over a trillion alternate Earths out there–and each one with its own set of laws. In order to keep the balance of power between all the worlds, Joey must team up with versions of himself from all over the multiverse. This is pure comic-book style multiverse, but a lot of fun to read through. This sort of straddles the teen/tween line with the sequel, The Silver Dream (2013), being fully teen, but it was too perfect for the list to pass up. Besides, imagine having an army of “yous” to find the bad guy with!
The Dead Gentleman by Matthew Cody (Knopf Books, 2011)
Tommy Learner is a boy who is part of a secret group called the Explorers. These individuals explore all the amazing portals to other worlds. But now a nefarious evil is inexorably conquering world after world, and it’s up to Tommy and his new NYC friend Jezebel, to keep him from taking her world as well. Wild and wonderful this book is a strange mix of science, fantasy and steampunk!
So there’s my ten! Comments welcome!
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on September 10, 2014, in General Posts and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, fantasy, Lists, literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Picture Books, Reading, reviews, Science Fiction, series, SF. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.