James P. Hogan’s novel starts out in a world heading towards crisis. In a not-too-distant future, the United States is slowly rotting from within, with revolutionaries and gangs forcing an increasingly authoritarian reaction from the government. As an increasingly likely conflict with Japan and China looms, scientists develop a device that heralds the prospect of improving decision-making by allowing users to tap into the infinite number of decisions made by their multitude of counterparts in alternate worlds, thus discovering the wisest course of action. But then the scientists discover a means of transporting a person’s consciousness into their counterpart in another universe. As the scientists begin to explore the possibilities, though, the military prepares to move in and use the device for their own ends.
Like his earlier novel The Proteus Operation, Hogan provides a plot of considerable interest, one well grounded in scientific theory as befitting an author of hard SF. Yet character development is lost amid the considerable political commentating the author continually engages in, as he uses his premise to both offer his theory on the failings of our world (too much government) and construct an idyllic alternative that in which everything is perfect (thanks to limited government). Some of it is laughable (as in how Britain manages to have socialized medicine WITHOUT government), much of it demonstrates a poor understanding of human history, and all of it gets in the way of the suspense Hogan attempts to build throughout the novel. It makes for an annoying read, one that would have been better is there had been less of Hogan’s political views and more focus on the characters and some of the interesting implications of his premise.