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The Walls of the Universe Hardcover – February 3, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Universe Series

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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.)
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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765319977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765319975
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,364,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Paul Melko's The Walls of the Universe reminds me a bit of the old-style Heinlein/Asimov kind of juveniles: plucky young intelligent male protagonist into science gets himself into lots of scrapes then extricates himself using those sciency smarts (say, to invent or build something), all of which is conveyed in adequate but not particularly memorable prose. It also reminded me a lot of the old TV show Sliders, both in its movement-through-parallel-universes premise (not original to Sliders by any means) and in its TV-like presentation--easily digestible writing, various moments of implausibility, a tendency to have things happen a bit too easily. What redeems the novel somewhat is its use of multiple point-of-view from the "same" person--two parallel versions of the main character, a nicely managed twist on a familiar premise that lifts Walls of the Universe above its other, more pedestrian qualities.

John Rayburn, a high school senior, is surprised in the woods near his family farm by another version of himself (John Prime), who explains he is from a parallel universe. Years ago John Prime was himself surprised by yet another version of John (John Superprime) who showed up and gave him the device which allows for interdimensional travel--a small machine that straps across one's chest. Prime, who plans to make money by transplanting as yet untapped ideas from other universes into new ones (such as "inventing" the Rubik's Cube), convinces Farmboy John (Prime's name for him) to take the machine for a spin and see for himself.
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