“It’s easy to come up with conspiracy theories if you only look at the evidence that supports your idea.”
Curiouser and curiouser. In Limited Wish, Mark Lawrence continues the story of Nick Hayes, the teenaged mathematical prodigy from One Word Kill, who is now sixteen years old and working with a leading researcher at Cambridge University on the mathematics of parallel universes and the nature of time.
In this second volume of the Impossible Times trilogy, Mark Lawrence digs deeper into the implications of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which every decision we make initiates a fork in the universe, spawning off new possible timelines. Although we as individuals select only one of these timelines along which to live our life, the number of possible timelines—and the number of possible lives we can live—is essentially infinite.
In Limited Wish, Nick Hayes is presented with a unique paradox: two divergent timelines of his life have converged in the present day. The timelines entail two possible futures for Nick himself, but they are mutually incompatible. The actions that Nick takes to resolve the paradox require him to reject at least one of these timelines. Either way he decides, he will also be rejecting someone he loves.
Amidst this drama, Nick discovers a copy of a mathematics book, Curiosa Mathematica: A New Theory of Parallels, by the mysterious Charles L. Dodgson, whom you might recognize under a different name. Compared to the unpredictability of his personal life, Nick finds comfort in the certainty of mathematics:
“Mathematics is its own language. The language of everything. It doesn’t need someone to explain it. It explains itself and leaves almost no room for ambiguity.”
As in One Word Kill, Mark Lawrence strikes a perfect balance between stimulating the mind (mathematics, quantum physics, and philosophy) and the heart (Nick’s character development, personal relationships, and battle with leukemia). All of this leads up to a perfectly executed conclusion that left me simultaneously weeping and smiling.
Limited Wish also has plenty of subtle connections to Mark Lawrence’s other trilogies. The mysterious key that one character possesses here seems like it could be the same as the titular item from The Liar’s Key. The time echoes experienced by Nick are similar to magical elements from several of Lawrence’s fantasy books, including the Book of the Ancestor series. In a nice touch, some of Nick’s favorite music is by the 1980s goth rock band, Sisters of Mercy, which serves as a subtle nod to the Sisters of Sweet Mercy in the Book of the Ancestor. I am expecting that the enigmatic Dr. Elias Taproot, who links all of Mark Lawrence’s series, will also make an appearance by the end of the series.
Till then, crank up the volume on Sisters of Mercy and get ready to have your mind blown with Limited Wish, this excellent second book in Mark Lawrence’s Impossible Times trilogy.