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on March 16, 2011
Tim Pratt brings a nice touch to a classic fantasy and sf setup in his 2010 YA novel, The Nex, about Randy, a thirteen year old girl who finds herself transported to another world populated by bizarre humans, creatures and machines. It's so much a classic trope that Randy tells us she's already considered what to do if something like this ever happened. Instead of seeing at it as a tragedy, she picks up the half-full magic chalice and drinks. Getting home will work out or not, but this is an adventure not to be missed.

So Randy joins the legions of adventurer heroes that found themselves suddenly far from home, thrown in with companions on a mission, running down a yellow brick road while chased by a powerful evil force.

And she rocks.

Randy got transported to The world of the Nex by a bracelet of gems with shifting colors she grabbed from the backseat of her brother's beat up Mustang. Stealing is something she's fallen into since her father walked into his restaurant just before it exploded and she, her mother and brother all took up their own dysfunctional ways of coping with their loss. Besides, shes pretty sure he found, or stole, it himself.

She's right, of course.

Where she lands is the world at the center of all possible worlds, the Nex, or more formally, Nexignton-on-Axis, a place that has nothing of its own, but reaches out to the universes that rub up against it and takes what it needs...along with a fair amount of its surroundings. This provides the setup for her travels through a cultural and technological patchwork with a pair of self styled revolutionaries trying to escape the tyrannical Regent of Nex, who is, as often happens in these things, a visitor himself.

Her companions are a shape-shifting killer named Howlaa and a sparkly cloud of nanites named Wisp, both lately in the employ of the Regent. They are, in fact, his prime team of troubleshooters, trouble being whatever gets snatched up when the royal snatchers grab a slice of whatever reality it latches on to and brings back a plus one that causes problems.

Like Randy, for instance.

Fortunately, Howlaa and Wisp were after the bracelet, which allows you to jump across time and space, in their own bid for freedom. They're not really revolutionaries. Really they're just revolting, but they're not completely sure what that actually means. Though they weren't looking for her, when the bracelet bonds to her it becomes a package deal and away the trio sprint, the Regent's hench-creatures in hot pursuit.

Besides the plucky Randy and her companions, what I love about this book is the way Pratt has crossed the streams of science and fantasy, channeling Clarke's sufficiently advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic maxim.

"It's science, all right? Science is how it works."

"When you say `science' like that you might as well be saying `magic' or `the gods' or-" [...]

"Super Science, then...are you happy?"

- The Nex

It's YA, which means that there's nothing in here that should get a PTA's knickers in a twist, but it's a great story, and it contains the meta-threads of more than one genre in its yarn. Not only is it a great read, it's a fabulous launching point for comparing and contrasting everything from Candide to Avatar.

The shortcoming of the story is that it all goes by too quickly, and that things work out too neatly, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. On the one hand it makes for great fun, and on the other gives another good point for critical discussion ( i.e. Given that any of this is possible, what could have gone wrong?)

There's also a short story included at the end (Dream Engine) which introduces Wisp, Howlaa and the world of Nex in one of their adventures shooting trouble for the Regent. It does a nice job of setting up the context for the novel, and offers a nice hook into the bigger story.

Due to its kleptomaniacal ways, the Nex is full of the widest possible variety of people, places and things, limited only by the constraint that they all be possible...but likely is very much not a requirement. In the Nex, anything can happen, but only if it could actually happen. This makes it a perfect playground for short stories, and a great opportunity for writing assignments using it's setting. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the author was willing to share his universe with YA writers to see what they could come up with.

And then there's the price. Granted you need something that will read an Amazon Kindle book, like a Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android or computer running the Kindle app, but after that it's only 99 cents. Nearly what paperback books cost when we were very young.

If readers like The Nex, I'd recommend his 2005 debut novel The Strange Adventurers of Ranger Girl in which a Californian barista art school dropout dukes it out with a demon from her own comic strip. It's aimed at a bit older audience than The Nex, but very accessible to teen readers.

Ernest Lilley ([...])
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on December 31, 2012
A little too linear for my tastes: problem arises, problem investigated, solution conceived, solution implemented, everybody goes home. I prefer stories that unfold a bit more... organically. Having said that, The Nex is still pretty engaging. Our heroine, Randy, is an unremarkable figure, rather bland in her familiar, no-nonsense "she-hero who just wants to go home" kind of way. But she is more than balanced by two rather extreme accidental henchmen: Howlaa the skinshifting violence specialist and Wisp, a sort of loose conglomeration of non-corporeal blinking lights with a tendency to lecture. The world this all takes place in - The Nex - is also a fairly unusual world, and it's populated by enough oddities and misfits that most readers probably won't notice the too-simple story structure.

Overall, a fun read, but not as meaty as I would have liked.
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on April 19, 2011
I was introduced to the works of Tim Pratt through his Marla Mason stories. And I loved them, and though this isn't one of them, there was a whole bunch to really like here as well. It's a well written SF tale with memorable beings/characters who come to life just as Marla and her gang of cohorts and adversaries come together in that series.

There are themes that this tale shares with Stephen King's Dark Tower series, namely the idea of the "Nex" being sort of a central connection between all worlds and universes. But it is different and original in its presentation of that idea. I also seemed to note some similarities between characters in the Marla Mason books and in this one, but not in any negative sense.

The writing is strong throughout as is the plotting. I was happy to buy this book for Kindle, and would have been happy at higher price tags, as well. All in all, a very satisfying read.
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on October 21, 2015
I'd read another of this authors books and loved it so I bought this one. I really like his work. I wasn't too sure of this one at the beginning but it delivered on quirky imaginings pretty quickly. I think Tim Pratt is a bit like Neil Gaiman but he pushes boundaries a little more. Recommended.
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on August 7, 2016
Great story with an engaging and well realized teenaged girl protagonist who ends up in a city at the center of the multiverse
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on October 23, 2010
Tim Pratt delivers yet another fantastic story - this time the story of a teen age girl who jumps out of her world to a nexus like world between all worlds with the aid of a fantastic technology she stumbles upon. Light and and easy read I would recommend the Nex as a great self published story by a master of science fiction.
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on February 26, 2015
This book is so well written and engaging. I was sucked in from the beginning until the end, definitely recommend!
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on March 16, 2011
No regrets at reading this, and definitely worth several times the $0.99 Kindle price I paid. Strong, entertaining nigh-teen female protagonist. (I would enjoy a sequel that gave her best friend more than a couple on-page lines, since we heard more about her than saw.)
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on February 6, 2013
Tim Pratt Does it again! With a great story of an imaginative world where anything could have happened but he kept it tight and clean. The story is enjoyable and the characters lovable. A great read for any age.
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on December 4, 2013
Tim Pratt is one of my favorite short story authors, and this story, taken from his large novel series, really delivers. A must read for all Tim Pratt fans.
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