“The voice was a woman’s, warm and rich. Paz thought it was the sort of voice that might belong to a woman of her mother’s age – old enough that her fur had begun to darken and her ears to fold inwards at the tips.”
Infinity Gate is M.R. Carey’s multiverse epic that gives a personal touch to heart-pounding military sci-fi. Infinity Gate builds on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which considers a branching of the universe into multiple realities that reflect each probable outcome of an experiment, resulting in an effectively infinite number of possible universes. Those that have branched more recently bear a closer resemblance to our own world, whereas earlier branching events could lead to dramatic differences among parallel universes. For example, sentient life has evolved only in a small minority of possible Earths. In some incarnations, other animal families have achieved self-awareness before humans, becoming the dominant lifeforms on the planet.
While potentially universal in scope, the focus of Infinity Gate is on alternate versions of Earth, and more specifically the Nigerian metropolis of Lagos. It is fascinating to consider the different possible versions of Lagos, which vary from a polluted, war-torn wasteland to a thriving cultural center and scientific hub.
M.R. Carey does an excellent job introducing the scientific concepts behind his multiverse, including the mechanism for stepping between alternate universes. But at its core, Infinity Gate is a character-driven sci-fi.
Infinity Gate has three main protagonists, starting with physicist Hadiz Tambuwal, who discovers a method for stepping into alternate versions of Lagos from the isolation of her laboratory. Hadiz is an especially strong lead character and demonstrates M.R. Carey’s thoughtful incorporation of diverse characters, making Lagos the focal point for scientific discovery and establishing a Black female physicist as the leading scientist of her era.
The second lead character is Essien Nkanika, an uneducated man from a poverty-stricken region of an alternate Nigeria. Grimdark readers will appreciate the gray morality embodied by Essien, whose motives are not always clear in his interactions with Hadiz. Although Essien doesn’t get as much page time as Hadiz, he is still a joy to read.
The third protagonist is Paz, a school-age girl from a more divergent universe where rabbits have become the predominant species on Earth. Paz’s story dominates the second half of Infinity Gate, which pivots away from hard science and more towards action-oriented military sci-fi.
Infinity Gate shines in describing the nuanced relationships between sentient organic species and mechanical beings built on artificial intelligence (AI). The interactions between Hadiz and Paz and their AI friends is particularly touching, especially as they get caught up in the epic conflict between the multiverse alliance of the Pandominion and the AI-driven revolt known, appropriately, as the Ansurrection.
M.R. Carey’s writing is accessible throughout Infinity Gate. Carey describes scientific concepts in an easily digestible way, giving just the right level of detail to make the story believable. He proves equally adept at describing the personal emotions and inner conflicts of his characters.
The first half of Infinity Gate is a solid five-star read, but the second half overstays its welcome, spending too much time on chase sequences with Paz. The action ultimately reaches a climax that falls short of the epic scale of the book. In many ways, the conclusion of Infinity Gate seems to serve primarily as a setup for future installments of the Pandominion series.
Notwithstanding the slight letdown of this latter part of the book, Infinity Gate is an outstanding start to M.R. Carey’s new multiverse series, offering a thought-provoking treatment of the many-worlds concept while introducing us to a cast of characters who appeal equally to the mind and the heart.