*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Author: Iain Pears
Publication Date: August 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Henry Lytten – a spy turned academic and writer – sits at his desk in Oxford in 1962, dreaming of other worlds. He embarks on the story of Jay, an eleven-year-old boy who has grown up within the embrace of his family in a rural, peaceful world – a kind of Arcadia. But when a supernatural vision causes Jay to question the rules of his world, he is launched on a life-changing journey. Lytten also imagines a different society, highly regulated and dominated by technology, which is trying to master the science of time travel. Meanwhile – in the real world – one of Lytten’s former intelligence colleagues tracks him down for one last assignment. As he and his characters struggle with questions of free will, love, duty and the power of the imagination, Lytten discovers he is not sure how he wants his stories to end, nor even who is imaginary…
Right off the bat, Pears’ Arcadia reminded me of Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. This story spans time, but each story is linked so tightly. As you read through, Pears shows how each seemingly separate story and universe feeds into the others. There are so many moments in time that we get to see and many different characters. We have the future where the world is over populated, most animals are extinct, and select intelligent scientists are developing advanced technologies; there is the mid-twentieth century where one scientist finds a safe haven during the time spanning from WWII right into the Cold War; and then there is the world of Anterworld that is devoid of all technology and has quite a fantastical element to it with its simplicity.
This dystopian tale explores the idea of time travel and varying universes. It’s interesting in that it explores the theory that only one universe can exist at a time, and a through technology, you can create a parallel universe that, as it grows, will stretch until it becomes the new reality for the universe that humanity resides in. It’s a really fascinating concept. Angela Meerson is the perfect character to introduce us to this world. She’s one of the most intelligent people to exist in this world and many of her own colleagues write her off as crazy because of the way that she harnesses and channels her intelligence, but when she speaks to the reader–although sometimes fanatical–she’s well informed.
It’s a complex page turner with compelling characters and so many twists and turns. You won’t know what’s going to come next. Characters appear to be one thing and then you find out in an instant that they’re someone so much more that you thought. People disappear and show up in various universes, not knowing what to expect. It’s supposed to be read as part of an app that allows you to move freely between storylines. You can read each character’s story linearly or you can jump between tales as you wish. I read the physical copy as provided by Random House CA and it was still as suspenseful, exciting, and unique as I imagine the app is.