Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Parallel Conspiracy by Richard Paul Lori

Feeling helpless in his marriage with a domineering, ungrateful wife and in his work where his incompetent boss takes all the credit, computer programmer John Fuller has transformed from a shy, nervous, nerdy kid into a passive, nearly-hopeless adult. But when one rainy night he crashes his car and is thrust into a parallel universe, he meets the sweetheart Sue, who is recovering from the mysterious death of her father, Manny—and looking into his top-secret work in electromagnetism. Fitting the pieces together, Sue and Fuller dodge government agents at the laboratory and discover that some of Manny’s coworkers are sending weapons into another universe with plans to destroy the parallel Earth and harness the energy it contains. Sue and Fuller shift into the parallel universe—one of many to which they will travel—and embark on a wild series of adventures. The technology is thoroughly explained and remarkably plausible, and the exploration of parallel universes is a thought-provoking concept uniquely rendered here.

Some of the phrasing is occasionally elementary—for example: "Gazing into her eyes for a long second, the compassion of their calming blue seemed to envelop him. A gentle smile came to her face and she turned, this time Fuller not stopping her."—but it does not detract from the story. Some clichés, particularly in scenes with interacts between Fuller and Sue, may cause an eye roll or two, but the development of the characterization of both these two provides a convincing foundation so they never fall into the trap of archetypes. While Sue and Fuller both possess some clichéd traits, both are strong, dynamic, and loveable; the narrative draws the reader directly into their thought-processes, shifting between characters smoothly and skillfully. 

The Parallel Conspiracy begins with the bewildering mystery of It's a Wonderful Life, swiftly transforming into an action-packed adventure, like Indiana Jones (featuring artificial intelligence, Greco-Roman societies, a bit of Tarzan and Jane, and gun-wielding CIA agents), but in the end, it is a unique, ever-shifting novel, with characters you can’t help but root for. Female lead Sue brings a fresh and loveable face to the sci-fi thriller, and the action will sweep you off your feet.

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