The Last Universe

William Sleator, Author . Abrams/Amulet $16.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8109-5858-6

Sleator (The Boy Who Couldn't Die ) turns one of modern science's most puzzling fields into fodder for suspense, with mixed results, in this novel narrated by 14-year-old Susan. Her brother, 16-year-old Gary, recently became ill and is confined to a wheelchair; he ponders quantum physics and tries to spend as much time outdoors in his family's enormous garden as he can, for which he needs Susan's help. One afternoon, the pair gets diverted while returning from the pond in the garden, and Susan becomes convinced that the garden paths are moving. Gary explains that it is a "quantum garden," one in which the odd and unpredictable rules of quantum physics play out on a large scale ("The basic matter of the world is complete craziness... all of life, all of the universe is governed by this uncertainty, this craziness," says Gary). This idea leads to the probability of multiple universes, including the possibility that in one or more of those universes, Gary is not sick. The story takes a confusing turn when brother and sister spot versions of themselves in the garden ("Just get away from them. If we meet up with ourselves, it will be like matter and anti-matter—we'll wipe ourselves out," Gary explains). Sleator's foreword lays out the principles he explores, and he uses his complex subject to frame some interesting questions. But unlike many of his other novels, the plot trumps the characterization here, and the narrative unfortunately comes off as more frivolous than compelling. Ages 12-16. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 05/02/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 217 pages - 978-0-8109-9213-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-2796-4
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