This is a really hard story to talk about without major spoilers. So initially, let me know: the premise is quite clever – man makes machine that may well interfere with the very fabric of reality – and there are some nice points of world building. There’s a point at which you may well wonder whether your version of the text has somehow been corrupted (I did), but it’s actually the story itself, as you discover when you keep going (… unless your copy actually is corrupted…). However, I had some issues, mostly in the characters which I’ll mention in the spoilers section; partly it was in the prose itself, which at times just felt clunky.
So the premise of the story is that the machine can reach across alternate realities to somehow patch in a thing from over there into this reality here. What the story does that’s quite clever is follow different versions of the scientist who’s made this machine across the different realities as the same basic events happen, and they deal with the consequences; this basically comes down to trying to stop very bad things happening, like The Wrong Person being able to use it.
One of my bugbears was in who the scientist became in the different realities. I was a bit sad that in the… I think four iterations, only one was a woman. She also seemed to get a shorter section than others (maybe that was my imagination). But, you know, ok. I did like that the scientist became different people from different backgrounds – although that doesn’t entirely make sense if they’re meant to be basically the same person. Maybe their parents/grandparents migrated to different places? I was excited when the name became Adwan Faizan, wearing a djellaba. However it’s in this guise that The Evil Opponent actively discusses the possibility of using the machine to get rid of “our enemies.” Which just seems a little bit too tone-deaf for the world we currently live in.
Also, the other character who migrates across realities is the first scientist’s ex-wife (husband for the female scientist). She’s been seduced by The Opponent as a way of getting at her ex, and for inexplicable reasons (ok, she ends up realising she’s been used by the bad guy, but that takes a while) she ends up actively helping her ex. The one redeeming feature was that she didn’t fall back in love with the main guy.
In the final analysis: a cool idea, not entirely well constructed.