n interesting little scifi tale about a post-corporate Earth where the environment is screwed for good, where rich whites live in their pristine city and beyond the walls, in Ashtown, all the poor people of color live in their dangerous squalor. But this Earth is a bit special – it is one of many Earths, various parallel universes with minor changes, over a hundred of them we can detect. But not only can we detect them – we can travel to them
You see, if you do exist on that parallel Earth, if you haven’t yet died, you’ll get turned into a crumpled ruin of a human. So that’s the neat point – the first explorers (all “Right Stuffers”) die. It’s only when they start bringing in poor colored folks – those whose counterparts are more likely dead from violence or disease – that the travelers survive.
The story follows Cara, a poor woman who is one of the most experienced jumpers around, who travels the world and hopes for citizenship before the corporation decides to can her (and back to Ashtown she will go). Of course, the woman who controls her jumps, elusive, beautiful, haughty, slightly-Japanese Dell, she is falling in love with. But they prickle and bicker and hiss, reflecting back the title of the book in a different way. Still, Cara has a job to do and every so often she gets a look at a world that turns out differently, especially concerning the haughty scrap-emperor Nik Nik, who she used to serve and love and who beat her (and occasionally killed her) in the various other worlds.
I have to say that I enjoyed this one. The characters were a bit of a herd of cats to keep track of (especially since they had different relationships, even names on the other worlds). And sometimes (since I’m a guy) the relationship elements seemed to drag. But yes, it was a curious story in an interesting setting, and really, what more can you hope for. StarWars, it ain’t.
You might have to look around for this one. Written by Micaiah Johnson, I came across it in a used bookstore, so I’m not sure of its availability (of course, since Amazon has everything, the bastards, check there). Worth searching for, on this or other Earths.