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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The Walls of the Universe - Paul Melko Rating: 3.75* of fiveThe Book Description: John Rayburn thought all of his problems were the mundane ones of an Ohio farm boy in his last year in high school. Then his doppelgänger appeared, tempted him with a device that let him travel across worlds, and stole his life from him. John soon finds himself caroming through universes, unable to return home—the device is broken. John settles in a new universe to unravel its secrets and fix it.Meanwhile, his doppelgänger tries to exploit the commercial technology he’s stolen from other Earths: the Rubik’s Cube! John’s attempts to lie low in his new universe backfire when he inadvertently introduces pinball. It becomes a huge success. Both actions draw the notice of other, more dangerous travelers, who are exploiting worlds for ominous purposes. Fast-paced and exciting, this is SF adventure at its best from a rising star. My Review: Well, THAT was fun! I have a fondness for multiverse stories, and this one's as much fun as H. Beam Piper's Paratime series. It made me think of the Star Trek: TNG episode “Lower Decks,” which shows us for the first time what the actions of the Big Boys look like from the ordinary crewmember's PoV. And like the recent success story Redshirts by John Scalzi, the hero has to figure out what's happening and how to fix it without knowing the big picture.Why I had to knock a quarter star off the top grade the book could ever reasonably have gotten was the mega-dumb love story part...both John Wilson, the dupe, and John Rayburn or John Prime as he's called in the description above, are world-class bunglers in love. It points up the small inelegance in the book: The characters, while I liked them and invested myself in their antics, didn't always make sense as they rocketed from idea to idea. Things that should've been second nature to any reasonable semi-adult just passed right by them and caused avoidable problems for the author. It would have given him more room to flesh out the other small inelegances, like a messy sense of elapsed in-story time and a few logical gaps like when John Wilson drags a woman and child into another universe and conveniently forgets this while trying to determine the radius his device works in that exist.But heck! What's a little dent and scrape among friends? I can't wait to get the next one in the series!