“Book Review: The Futility of Vengeance”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
Author Adam Guest follows up his stellar debut with this satisfying exploration through the various lives of our main character
It’s been about eight months since I read Worldlines, the first book in Adam Guest’s psychological fantasy series Many Worlds. And it’s stayed with me this whole time. A sort of Butterfly Effect in book form, its structure allows us to dip in and out of our protagonist’s life in various worldlines—dating his best friend, dating someone else, and ultimately, dealing with the repercussions of an alternate self who lucid dreamed his way into murdering his girlfriend.
It is a novel that catered to my active imagination, helped me consider themes of responsibility and repercussions. And I had a really, really great time with it.
Now here comes book two, The Futility of Vengeance. We open directly after the events of book one, in various storylines. In one, Gary Jackson is looking forward to marrying his long-time girlfriend Sinead. In another, he’s merely friends with Sinead, until she reveals the truth of her hidden feelings for him. In another, he’s sitting in a jail cell, longing for revenge on the alternate-Gary who killed his girlfriend Michelle. One common theme running through all of Garys’ worldlines is his growing obsession with the worldlines theory and what he might be able to do to change his present circumstances.
Lucky for us, this is one of those series that uses a foundational premise that can carry its star-quality throughout multiple books. When you open this novel, you know what type of mystery and exploration you can expect—the one which already satisfied your desires in book one. We get to lucid dream our way into shifting worldlines in just the way we came to love.
But the premise that carries over isn’t alone in the positive qualities this book offers readers. There are storylines everywhere that give us unique issues and insights to pay attention to. One of my favorites is being able to recognize one of the Garys—who hasn’t really had anything comparatively bad happen to him—as he blows up small issues into big issues because he hasn’t dealt with the obstacles the other Garys have dealt with. This not only rings true to our real world but allows us to pay close attention to the subtle differences in personality. This is the type of intelligent conversation I yearn for in books like these.
This novel even allows us to jump in time between worldlines too, meaning that we have the opportunity to go into one character’s past while being in another character’s future. We watch a specific scene unfold to one Gary, even though we’ve already been in that slightly different scene with another. For a book that plays on our imagination with its premise, it’s refreshing to go beyond our initial setup into new actively imagined directions.
While I did have a good time with The Futility of Vengeance, I have some qualms with it too. The issue that stands out most is that Gary is oddly meaner this time around, specifically toward the women in his life. We’re asked to empathize with him in the worldlines, but he makes some increasingly questionably decisions and we never really grapple with the truth of the situation—that he is a problem here, not the girlfriend who needs to “come around” to his idea of things.
Also, there might be a few too many worldlines running throughout in this one. It can occasionally become a bit difficult to grasp where those stories left off the last time we saw them, especially when we’re introduced to new worldlines in between.
But overall, The Futility of Vengeance is a welcome and enjoyable addition to the Many Worlds series. We’ve got ourselves some unique issues and truly some worthwhile storylines in this one. It’s a great excuse to hop back into the alternate worldlines that worked so well in book one.
Category: Psychological fantasy
Paperback: 327 pages
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