So when I was last in Milwaukee, trolling for cheap sci fi to sate my genrelust, I came across a couple of James P. Hogan books: the previously reviewed The Multiplex Man, priced at $5.95, and a softbound Paths to Otherwhere, priced at $2.95. I took them both, obviously, and it was only when I got back to my hotel room and was choosing which to read first that I noticed Paths to Otherwhere had a blank back cover. And the title page said something about the new blockbuster, Paths to Otherwhere, coming out in 1996. Holy carp! I thought to myself. I paid $3 for a James P. Hogan advanced copy! That’s almost as big of a deal as the time I found a May 1984 issue of Gallery there after pawing through Hustler, Penthouse, Playboy, Oui, and Swinging Japanese Schoolgirls for an hour, blushing the whole time undoubtedly (but undeterredly).
So this particular edition was a bargain, but what about the content?
This particular novel takes place in a slightly darker shade of the present, once again where the government and the military nefarious oppressors of common man. Within this dark future-present, a group of scientists discover a way to send their consciousnesses into counterparts in alternate universes. The military wants to use the technology to get an edge over its rivals as the final war for the West is coming. The scientists, on the other hand, want to explore for the mere love of science.
The scientists strike upon a distant universe where WWI ended peaceably in 1916 and it truly was a war to end all wars. As a result, the world is a libertarian paradise with Virginia Posterel-approved aesthetics. But the Powers-That-Be-With-Guns in their universe want to prevent the scientists from escaping to that Otherwhere.
Hey, it’s a decent sci-fi bit. It’s not Inherit the Earth, but it’s okay. The early portions of the book set the foreshadowing for a more climactic and higher-stakes ending than the book offered. At 405 pages, the book’s a bit overlong, too, but it’s readable, and its musings on the possibility of alternate universes and mirror images of people will ensure that my story “Extra Life at $1,000,000”–previously written, I assure you–appears to be a pale copy of this original. Curse you, James P. Hogan!
Recommend it? Sure, especially if you can find a low price version of it somewhere. It’s no longer in print, so eBay and other auction sites, as well as garage sales, might offer it to you cheaply. Worth $2.95 for the collector’s item I got anyway.