Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Hispanic gay MC, autistic-coded Egyptian gay love interest, M/M, major Japanese character
PoV: 1st person, past-tense
Published on: 1st November 2022
A thrilling race across the multiverse to save the infinite Earths – and the love of your life – from total destruction for fans of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, The Time Traveller's Wife and Rick and Morty.
Film-maker Hayes Figueiredo is struggling to finish the documentary of his heart when handsome physicist Yusuf Hassan shows up, claiming Hayes is the key to understanding the Envisioner – a mysterious device that can predict the future.
Hayes is taken to a top-secret research facility where he discovers his alternate self from an alternate universe created the Envisioner and sent it to his reality. Hayes studies footage of the other him, he discovers a self he doesn’t recognize, angry and obsessive, and footage of Yusuf… as his husband.
As Hayes finds himself falling for Yusuf, he studies the parallel universe and imagines the perfect life they will live together. But their lives are inextricably linked to the other reality, and when that couple's story ends in tragedy Hayes realises he must do anything he can to save Yusuf's life. Because there are infinite realities, but only one Yusuf.
With the fate of countless realities and his heart in his hands, Hayes leads Yusuf on the run, tumbling through a kaleidoscope of universes trying to save it all. But even escaping into infinity, Hayes is running out of space - soon he will have to decide how much he’s willing to pay to save the love of his life.
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
~too good to be a debut
~an android drag queen
~rewriting the laws of physics = true love
~it is, in fact, illegal to be that smart
Every now then, a debut comes along that makes you do a double-take; that makes you go online to check that it really is a debut, because no way. No way! What?! How can somebody’s debut be this freaking brilliant?!
I double-checked, folx. This really is Tavares’ first published novel.
It’s very hard to believe after reading it, though. It’s just so good!
Fractured Infinity takes place in a near-future where humanity has more or less gotten their shit together; climate change is being fixed, the cures for all cancers have been found, and the world’s running on clean energy, finally. The USA has been knocked off its pedestal – hard – and broken into a bunch of different pieces, including the Commonwealth of Great Basin Nations, a sovereign territory of Indigenous peoples, which is the setting for the first chunk of the book.
Because that’s where the top-secret facility is. The one with a machine that predicts the future. Which might, or might not, be a gift sent to our world from another universe.
None of this means anything to Hayes, who makes indie documentaries that are probably never going to make him famous. But it was an alternate version of him – another universe’s version of him – that built the machine, and that makes him involved.
Hayes is a brilliant, incredibly relatable, incredibly human main character, and I’m so glad Tavares decided to write Fractured Infinity in first-person, because Hayes’s voice – and the style of his narration – is a big part of what makes this book rock. He’s a mess with a huge heart, capable of morphing into whatever’s required for him to Get The Story but with a streak of something so damn genuine running through him at the same time, underneath his facade of blithe confidence. He’s a little bit broken and he cares so very much and sometimes he gets mad at reality, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to make it just a little better.
Or: he’s selfish and irresponsible, an unreliable narrator, manipulating the reader, always ready with a justification. He claims he’s no one special but acts as if he is, decides the rules don’t apply to him, fucks over multiple universes so he gets to keep his boyfriend.
Both these descriptions are true. So is he a good guy or a villain?
Neither. Both. It’s just not that simple.
Hayes isn’t just narrating: he’s actively talking to the reader, which gives Tavares so much more narrative freedom. For instance, telling-not-showing is something that typically drives me up the wall. (Because it’s usually done badly.) But here, it makes sense – Hayes summarising the Hardcore Science for us as best he understands it, etc – and even more importantly, it works; it’s not a lecture, it’s a conversation that the reader is a part of. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Hayes is so personable, so self-aware and sarcastic and wry when he’s talking to us (as opposed to when he’s talking to Yusef). Every so often he pauses to have an ‘if this were a movie’ moment, which a) are always brilliant and b) really highlight that despite living in the future, the Millennial vibes are strong in him!
“And Hayes Fig,” the voice continues—notice the nice white bread last name because this movie can’t have two ethnic-y leads, not when it’s already a gay story, I mean really—“was so used to helping others fight for their rights and tell their stories. But what about his own story?”
Which is not to say that the rest of the cast are slacking off: Yusef is impossible not to adore, simultaneously super sweet and brilliantly rational. As someone on the spectrum myself, he read as autistic to me – so much so I was actually surprised the word was never used. He’s funny and incredibly intelligent, passionate and a little shy, beautifully and mercilessly logical, out to make the world a better place and wary of the temptations of a machine that tells the future. I had no problem seeing why Hayes would fight so hard to keep him alive, and keep him period.
Kaori also deserves a mention: the head of the project studying the machine, she’s even better at camouflage than Hayes, and ruthless in going after what she wants. And I liked her. I’m sure not every reader is going to, but even if you don’t like her I think everyone has to appreciate her, not just for her genius-level smarts but because she’s interesting, all secrets and masks around a core of adamant.
And – perhaps ironically, perhaps obviously – she’s really the clearest-eyed person in the whole book.
Other than Hayes’ voice and style, what I loved most about Fractured Infinity was that it just refused to colour inside the lines, to play to expectations. Yusef does not freak out about something that we would usually see love interests freak out about; one of the villains, who could have been demonised so easily as cold and unlikeable, is not (and in fact both Hayes and the narrative repeatedly acknowledge that said person can’t really be considered a villain at all); and most of all, Tavares is not afraid to go there. Over and over again, he writes in what I can only call the dangerous direction, delving deep into the ugly, selfish parts we all have, asking tough questions and asking us to ask tough questions – of the characters and ourselves. We all know what the answer to the central premise is supposed to be – if it’s a choice between one life or billions, then you trade in the one. We know this. It’s obvious.
And yet – would you do it? Could you? When it’s not a nameless faceless hypothetical stranger, but someone you love?
Could you live with yourself after making either choice?
None of this feels like shock value: none of it is just because. And this is absolutely not a gotcha!-book. Instead, I’d call it…honest. Fast-paced and unstoppable as a train crash, full of utopias and disasters, what a story looks like when it’s not been sanded smooth and sanitized to fit what we think fiction is supposed to be. Despite the whole hopping-between-universes thing, Fractured Infinity reads like painfully, achingly real life, instead of following the script.
You know what I mean by ‘the script’. Outside of something like grimdark, as a general rule of thumb when we pick up a (SFF) novel we know it’s going to end more or less okay, and probably fairly happily. The bad thing never actually happens. The villains never actually win. No matter what the author puts you through, you know, deep down, that the love interest isn’t actually going to die. Etc. At the very last second there’ll be a secret uncovered or a loophole discovered and everything will be okay.
Fractured Infinity is not grimdark; not even close. And I’m not saying that Yusef dies! (…I’m not saying he doesn’t, either.) But that ending? I couldn’t believe Tavares went there. I couldn’t believe he went that far off-script.
I loved it. Loved it loved it LOVED IT. That ending catapulted Fractured Infinity from a solidly excellent four and a half stars to an utterly superb five stars. It’s been 48 hours since I finished it and I’m still stuck in a book hangover; I haven’t been able to read anything else because deep down, I’m still going AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
In a good way. The best way.
Lots of stories are about love. This one is a question: when you say you’d do anything for love, do you really mean anything?
This is a compelling, unconventional debut that is too freaking awesome to be a debut; a book that’s easy to read, but hard to recover from. I need absolutely everyone to read it, and if I don’t see it all over the best-of-the-year lists come December, I will be outraged.
I still can’t believe this is Tavares’ first published novel, and if you think I’m not setting up Google alerts to notify me of what he writes next, you are so wrong.
Fractured Infinity is out this coming Tuesday – which means you’ve still got time to preorder it!