More Walls Broken – Tim Powers

“Divergent reality, quantum mechanics! Ghost raising!”

Vitrielli was working on transmigration of souls before he died. Ainsworth and Blaine need information from him. Cobb just wants tenure and got roped into this late night expedition to the cemetery. They had planned to summon Vitrielli’s ghost and take him back to the lab in a thermos to question him but naturally things didn’t turn out as expected.

“His memory is what we want. What he took away with him.”

I’m all for parallel universes and ghosts, and I loved that chocolate was one of the items required to attract ghosts in this novella (who isn’t attracted by chocolate?!), but ultimately the hype I created in my own mind let me down.

I wished for this novella on NetGalley (which was always going to be a long shot) and then patiently waited for its release, hoping I’d be able to buy the ebook. In the meantime I read an excerpt which hyped me up even more. I kept trying to find ways to buy the ebook but because I live outside of America that wasn’t an option. (Oh, the joys of loving books and not living in the bookish promised land!) I finally asked my library to buy it for me and they did! I love my library! But after months of anticipation I think my expectations became unrealistically high.

I enjoyed this story. Really, I did. It flowed well. It was written well. It left me half satisfied by the ending and half wanting more, which I quite enjoy in a story. I’d just hoped for something more groundbreaking and less predictable. I was waiting for all hell to break loose and, while the ramifications of this trio’s experiment with the afterlife were interesting, the story was a lot more contained than I had hoped.

Content warning for death by suicide.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As this ingenious new novella, More Walls Broken, begins, a trio of academics have just entered a deserted California cemetery late at night, bringing with them a number of arcane devices aimed at achieving an equally arcane purpose. What follows is the sort of dizzying, mind-expanding entertainment that only the always reliable, always astonishing Tim Powers could have written.

These three men, professors in the “Consciousness Research” department at Cal Tech University, have come together to perform a seemingly impossible task. Their goal: to open a door between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and to capture the ghost of the recently deceased scientist Armand Vitrielli. For their own desperate reasons, they hope to avail themselves of the secrets Vitrielli left behind at the time of his death. Their experiment, naturally, fails to come off exactly as planned.

A door between the worlds does, in fact, open, letting in something – someone – completely unexpected, and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate throughout the narrative.

Intricate, intelligent, and always thoroughly absorbing, More Walls Broken mixes fantasy and quantum physics in utterly unique fashion. The result is a brilliantly imagined account of multiple realities and unintended consequences that is pure dazzle, pure storytelling, pure – and unmistakable – Tim Powers. In book after book, story after story, Powers has set the standard for literate imaginative fiction. With this essential, beautifully realised novella, he has done it once again.

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