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The Walls of the Universe Hardcover – February 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765319977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765319975
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #761,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Melko (Singularity's Ring) sends a naïve high school senior on a sharply imagined trip across divergent time lines in an adventure with both brains and heart. John Rayburn is approached by John Prime, another universe's version of himself, who lends him a device that permits travel to parallel worlds. John realizes he's been tricked when he can't get back home. He stops in an almost-familiar universe to analyze the device and return to his own world, where John Prime is trying to get rich quick by inventing gadgets that his new home lacks. Soon the two are making friends and putting down roots, each discovering that he carries his own fundamentally empathetic, responsible personality from one universe to another. With imagination and sympathy, Melko makes the journey genuinely exciting and leaves plenty of room for future exploits. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Ohio farmboy John Rayburn is a high-school senior with relatively mundane concerns when, claiming to be from an alternate universe, his doppelganger, John Prime, shows up. The temptation to try out Prime’s universe-surfing device proves too great to resist, but, unfortunately, John discovers too late what Prime neglected to mention, that the thing works only one-way. Prime moved quite comfortably, into John’s life, with grand plans to market something his universe has and John’s doesn’t, a Rubik’s cube. Meanwhile, John has found a universe remarkably like his home, minus a version of himself, and enrolls at the University of Toledo as a physics major, figuring he’ll eventually be able to reverse-engineer the device. He accidentally invents pinball, which, thanks to his lab partners’ entrepreneurial genius, is a big hit. But unsavory sorts know it didn’t originate in this universe. Thrills ensue, for both John and Prime have attracted dangerous attention from other travellers between universes. Melko handles the struggles of young adulthood and universe-spanning conflict with equal vigor in this wildly entertaining yarn. --Regina Schroeder

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael E. Rubin on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Back in December, I read a review of "Walls of the Universe" on the scifi blog io9. Even though I had never read the original novella, I was impressed with the concept and pre-ordered it on Amazon. A copy arrived in my hands last week, and I finally sat down to read it tonight. I fully expected to read it over the next few days and then move on.

Instead, I finished it in one sitting.

I'm not exaggerating. I started reading it at 9pm last night, and as I write this email to you, it's now just past 4am.

I was hooked right from the start. The book was gripping, fun, and deeply fascinating. I also enjoyed the love story aspect of it, and the scenes with Casey were romantic, sexy, and passionate. The tech and the high concept may have been what pulled me in, but I found myself caring about these characters and desperately turning the pages to find out what happened to them.

I have to admit, my favorite MWI-type (and frankly, scifi in general) stories in the past have been James Hogan's "Proteus Operation" and "Paths to Otherwhere." Not only has Mr. Melko's book immediately thrust itself on to my shelf alongside those old favorites, I have a feeling that his is going to be one I re-read again and again with much greater frequency.

Thanks to Mr. Melko for writing such a wonderful, romantic, entertaining novel. Now I'm off to go find a copy of "Singularity's Ring."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Growing up on a farm in Ohio, high school senior John Rayburn dreams of studying physics at Case Institute of Technology though the reality is that he will attend Toledo where he can earn money to afford the tuition. He is angry at himself as much as bully Ted Carson whom he beat the snot out of when a figure arrives insisting he is Johnny. They look like identical twins and the second Johnny explains he is a double-Prime replica and gives John a gizmo to travel to alternate worlds and come up with inventions to sell on this orb that has not been created starting with Rubik's Cube (make that Johnny's cube).

Prime Johnny says he will masquerade as John while the latter explores. However, Prime fails to warn John that there is one flaw with the cross dimensional device: you can never go home. Prime takes over John's life. John, after meeting several "Johns", settles on a world where he studies physics with plans to stay in hiding of sorts while fixing the gadget so he can come home. Prime impregnates John's girlfriend Casey and marries her; while his Rubik Cube creation runs into patent law issues and Ted makes trouble for him. On the world he chose to live John has a relationship with another Casey, avoids the Ted alternate and accidentally "invents" pinball that bring him to the attention of his previously unknown competitors, stranded cross-world travelers earning a living with new technology and a desire to steal John's functioning gadget.

THE WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE is an entertaining science fiction thriller in which the two Johns find their respective lives play out differently. Whereas Prime learns the grass is not greener as nothing goes right for him; John makes his new world a home though he ends up in danger from desperate marooned souls like himself. Although a late twist implies a series involving saving the universe from reverse engineers, readers will appreciate Paul Melko's fine tale of two Johns.

Harriet Klausner
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Hickerson VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I really, really liked Paul Melko's "The Walls of the Universe." The problem is I wanted to love it.

The first third of the novel unfolds at a breathless pace as we meet John Rayburn and his double from a parallel universe, John Prime. Prime has come to John's universe with a device that allows the user to pop from one parallel universe to the next. Prime offers John the chance to explore the next universe over, promising John that he can pop over, recharge the device and just pop back. Little does John suspect that Prime's device only allows you to journey forward to the next universe and not backward and that Prime is looking for a way to steal John's life out from under him.

For the first third of the novel, we alternate back and forth between John's journey and Prime's scheming in John's home universe. Prime has come forward with ideas and inventions not yet seen in John's universe, intending to claim them as his own and take the credit and fortune that comes with them. We slowly see how Prime works his way into John's seemingly ideal life, not only getting the girl John has always had a crush on but also working out the first stages of fame and fortune by introducing the Rubik's Cube to that universe. Meanwhile, John must learn the ropes of travel, eventually deciding to settle down in one safe universe and going to college to try and understand the device.

In the course of the story, Melko allows the reader to both root for and against each John. Prime could easily be a one-note villain, but as Melko explores the character and allows us to get to know him, we become more sympathetic toward him and even begin to pull for him as some of the later events of the story begin to unfold.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dale R. Cozort on September 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book from the author at Context, a science fiction convention in Columbus Ohio.

First the good stuff: It has been a long time since a book has grabbed me and made me want to keep turning pages even though I had a lot of other things that desperately needed to be done. This one did. The combination of the plot and characters I cared about kept me reading. The next issue of Point of Divergence may be a day or two late, but this was worth it.

This book is solidly alternate history, though the histories of the universes involved are generally rather sketchy. Most of them are penciled in with a few well-chosen details--enough to that they seemed solid, but not enough to slow down or overshadow the story.

The bulk of the story follows two versions of a farm boy, John Rayburn as he/they live his/their lives, mostly separately, but with some overlap. The first of those overlaps comes as one version (John Prime) tricks the other into swapping lives with him. Details of the second meeting would involve spoilers, so I'll let you discover that on your own. There are other overlapping characters, including a nemesis and a love interest.

One of the stronger aspects of this novel is the way that Melko approaches the way intellectual property transfers across the realities. That sounds boring stated that way, but he handles it well, technically accurate, realistic, and kind of exciting. Another strength: the way the experiences of the two versions of John shape them into substantially different people by the end of the book.

Now the weakness: Notice that I still gave this one five stars, so this didn't spoil the experience for me. With that in mind, the last forty-odd pages of Walls seemed considerably weaker than the rest.
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