The idea of parallel universes in fiction isn’t that new, where the main character goes on an adventure through space and time and sees different parts of himself in different situations. In fact, it has almost been done to death whether it be TV, film, books, or even video games. So if you’re going to do this sort of genre in science fiction, it’s best to do it from a differently creative angle. ‘A Thousand Pieces of You’ kind of does that, where the author Claudia Gray does have some imaginative ideas, but I was expecting a little bit more. Maybe I’m a bit picky?
The book follows an eighteen year-old girl named Marguerite Caine, or Meg for short, whose parents are brilliant scientists who became famous for reportedly discovering a way to travel through the multiverse. The way to do this is with a locket-like device called the ‘Firebird’, which the traveler wears to occupy the body of their other self in another universe. With this, a large corporation called Triad is willing to fund their project.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when it’s discovered Meg’s father is murdered and the culprit is a research assistant of her parent’s named Paul Markov, who escapes from the authorities with the help of a Firebird. Determined to exact revenge on her father’s killer Meg and another research assistant named Theo build two more Firebirds and use them to travel across parallel universes. Even with evidence pointing at Paul as the killer, Meg slowly begins to find out there’s a conspiracy that spans across dimensions, and it may lead to no one being safe.
Probably the strongest elements of this book is the characters, settings, and atmosphere as a whole. Claudia Gray has done her homework on giving enough background descriptions to provide a clear picture of the magnificent environments, but doesn’t commit solely to scenery porn. There’s basically enough to showcase the splendor and unique dimensions our characters. Meg and Theo travel to a dimension where the Tsars still rule Russia, where London is 100 years more advanced, and much more.
Meg herself is a fairly interesting character, especially since she wants to be an artist as opposed to scientists like the rest of her family. She’s determined and self-confident, but also patient and understanding towards other people when her emotions don’t get the best of her. She can be calm and seemingly innocent one moment but be quick at escaping a nasty situation the next. Even when Meg is questioning Paul being a murderer with bad intentions, she can’t deny the connection and attraction she has for the grad student turned fugitive.
Speaking of which, Paul’s also a magnetic person. At first, we’re not so sure what to make of him other than an eccentric protégé of Meg’s parents, but he warm up to him eventually once we learn the truth of what’s going on. As for Theo, he seems like a nice guy as well, but I often feel like he didn’t get as much time of connecting to him as we have with Meg and Paul.
Before I go on with the review, I should state I find it refreshing how the main characters of this book are Russian (in Meg’s case, she’s a Russian-American) protagonists. Aside from one other book I’ve read in the past, the only novels I’ve read with a Russian character have them portrayed as either a stick-in-the-mud Cold War spy or xenophobic sociopath with anti-hero qualities. Personally, I like how these characters are the opposite of that and are likeable without going into the cliché.
The rest of the book is fairly adventurous and imaginative on its own. The way it paces itself and goes it reminds me of a book called ‘Summerhill’ by Kevin Frane. It was about an anthropomorphic coyote born on a strange planet who possesses the ability to travel through space and time. Much like this book, there was never a sense of urgency, but it did have the moments of intense action and heartache when drama came.
Unfortunately, my nitpicking mind got the best of me and I was expecting a bit more imagination, like how ‘Bioshock Infinite’ or Cloud Atlas’ journeyed to a whole new level in the idea of multiverses and how one decision can make a difference in time. I loved these dimensions the characters travel to, and maybe even make it more adventurous? Still, I can’t complain since
Anyone who does not know much about the multiverse theory or Schrodinger’s Cat may not get at first how this all works, but I have to give ‘A Thousand Pieces of You’ credit for making it simple enough for our generation to understand. There’s especially a disturbing flaw to the Firebird: if a trans-dimensional traveler removes the Firebird around his or her neck, they’ll slowly lose their memory of being from another dimension, and be trapped in their other self’s body…forever.
Overall, ‘A Thousand Pieces of You’ is fun. It isn’t as deep and thought-provoking as ‘Summerhill’ or ‘Bioshock Infinite’, but Claudia Gray gives us enough thrills and written visuals to mix well with the character development. The story is well-paced, the ending plot twist incredibly good, and the book is more than entertaining enough to make you want to read the upcoming sequel.
If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!