Well, fooey. I’ve done it again. For the second consecutive Tour, I’ve failed to obtain a copy of the book in question. I was traveling for work most of October, and though I searched diligently for a copy of Stephen Lawhead’s The Skin Map in airport bookshops and the various vendors near my work site, I did not succeed.
Fortunately, there’s more than one way to skin a blog tour, so to speak. This time, I’ll direct you to the other CSFF Blog Tour participants who have read the book for a plot summary, reactions, and critical insights. I’ll just babble awhile about some of the ideas explored in the book, things you can glean from the back-cover blurbs or booksellers’ ads. Here’s one:
Multiverse (or, Meta-Universe, Multiple Alternate Universes, Parallel Universes, etc.)
This is a cool idea and a rich vein of ore for writers of speculative fiction. It’s a sub-genre all to itself: “Alternate Worlds.” Imagine a world where Rome never fell, or Nazi Germany won the race to the atomic bomb, or the integrated circuit was never invented. All manner of wonders and horrors ensue.
Now, take it a step further and imagine those worlds, and an infinitude of others, actually exist, side-by-side with our own, but undetectable to even a diligent observer. One more step, and now imagine it’s possible, with the proper knowledge and/or equipment, to travel among those worlds. The stage is set for epic adventure, without the need to fabricate a plausible faster-than-light stardrive or convince people there are trolls and pixies living in Central Park (New Yorkers, feel free to weigh in here).
It’s a venerable science-fiction trope, but because of its unlimited potential for variation and combination, it never seems to get old. History buffs love it. You can play your favorite battle or geopolitical conflict over and over again with different rules and starting conditions. So, we see a lot of alternate Civil Wars and World War II’s. C.S. Lewis gave us an alternate-worlds vision in the Narnia books. Stephen King took it for a spin in his Dark Tower series. On television, we had Quantum Leap and Sliders, among other shows that dealt with moving among alternate realities or changing the outcome of our own by traveling back in time to meddle with key historical events.
Okay, it’s cool, but is it science? The idea of multiple alternate universes has been knocking around in astrophysics for a long time, and recent experiments in quantum mechanics have provided some evidence that it might be possible. Even the most ardent supporters of multiverse theory are hesitant to suggest we could ever physically travel between alternate universes, though communication appears to be a less difficult problem. Don’t ask me to explain why–I get dizzy just skimming the surface of this topic. As with most issues in speculative fiction, it’s best not to spend too much time scrutinizing the science, if you don’t want to spoil a good story.
Interestingly, people who play about with multiverse theory quickly discover how easy it is to create a universe where life could never emerge. Changing one or two small properties of our own universe is enough to make it impossible for complex life to exist. It’s almost as if our universe was designed to support “life as we know it.”
Which leads to the question of whether multiverse theory is a worthy or suitable topic for Christian speculative fiction (which is why this Tour exists). Here’s my take, for what it’s worth. While the Bible doesn’t discuss the idea of multiple universes or travel among them, it’s clear that the Bible isn’t a detailed technical manual on the construction or design of this or any other universe. Does it take any more faith to believe that God is not only the God of the universe I can perceive, but also of an infinite tapestry of interconnected universes? Does allowing that such a thing is possible distort my understanding of His nature and character?
I don’t think so. He’s the God of All Creation, after all. The multiverse idea just makes that “All Creation” part even bigger than I thought.
Tomorrow, I’ll blather incoherently about another topic related to The Skin Map, but for more cogent conversation, please stop by the other fine destinations on the CSFF Blog Tour:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Morgan L. Busse
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
Stephen R. Lawhead’s website: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/