Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

Okay guys let's talk multiple dimensions and the paths not taken. I've been fascinated by the concept since at least Sliders (which if you don't know what that is then go stand in the corner thank you), but probably as far back as the first time I saw the original Star Trek episode of the Mirror Universe.  There's a me somewhere in the infinite realities that doesn't like to read! I'm sure she doesn't understand the hell she's brought on herself. I should build a machine to go help her..

This sub genre of scifi has taken the YA scene by storm in the last couple of years - there's Kasie West's PIVOT POINT, Elizabeth Norris' UNRAVELING, Anna Jarzab's TANDEM, Erica O'Rourke's DISSONANCE, Cristin Bishara's RELATIVITY, Cat Patrick's JUST LIKE FATE, E.C. Meyer's FAIR COIN...and those are just the ones I remember reading.  Lord knows what ones I've missed lately.  So A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU had some competition in other words.

But I loved the living daylights out of this book.  Natascha (of Bloody Bookaholic) and I read this together via facebook messenger--sharing our reactions and such as we went along.  Here's some (non-spoilery) reactions we had:


Okay I lied its all kind of spoilery XD  Tasch mentions in her GR review that we called some of it--which I think most readers will pick up on certain plot points. Quite honestly the plot follows some well worn tracks.  Especially if you watch, read or have an interest in dimension/reality hopping.  What shines through the best here are the characters and how Gray uses those tropes.

We spend a fair amount of time in only two dimensions--one in which Marguerite is a Russian noble (her mother is a Russian immigrant, there is context for this) and another where its Ocean Girl mostly underwater.  I'll speak a faint spoiler here, the ramifications from the Russian dimension have long lasting effects on Marguerite.  In Gray's notion its not your body that jumps, its your consciousness and you inhabit whatever is closest to your "self" while the original consciousness is basically put to sleep (sort of).

There are two love interests -- Theo and Paul, but that's not quite right to explain it that way.  Marguerite feels a connection to Paul, not exactly romance, but as if he understands her.  As she mentions her parents had a rotating stable of grad students and interns that frequently became "part of the family", but she paid very little attention to them overall.  Paul and Theo, for different reasons, became important people in her life.  For good and ill.

Closer to the end revelations are handled either really well or kind of drawn out.  Your mileage may vary on what I think worked and didn't work however, since a lot is predicated by how well you bought into earlier relationships/situations.  If you've read Gray's books, especially any first books in her other series, you'll see a familiarish trend to the story beats.  This is perfectly fine, I went into the book expecting this in fact since I'm a big fan of following a formula (or loose outline) that works.  Again its the characters of this book that make it stand out.

Marguerite is, by her own admissions, not a scientific genius like her parents.  She's fine with that, they're more then fine with that, she has her own calling (art).  Actually let me just pause to extoll the fact her parents are supportive as hell.  We mainly see her "dimension" in flashbacks, but throughout the rest of the book when an incarnation of her parents are present, they are unfailingly supportive of her.  They're not pushing her to be a science wonder kid, they don't want her to put aside her passion for what they think is better.  Yes they want her to do well at school, but they don't require her to follow in their foot prints.

Which is probably good since Marguerite has about as much scientific ability as I do, which is to say none.

Meanwhile let's discuss Paul (aka Father Murderer) and Theo (aka Totes Not Jealous).  At first we see way more of Theo then Paul; Theo goes off with Marguerite to chase after Paul, Theo is there explaining things to her, Theo is there "protecting her".  Paul meanwhile is off running around doing...something that I can't explain for spoiler reasons and the first time we actually get to spend time with Paul (outside of memories/flashbacks) is in Russia Dimension.  And that doesn't go as planned.

Theo is...hard to pinpoint.  I do think if things had happened in a different order, or if we weren't seeing it from Marguerite's POV, I would have felt differently at times.  As it is Marguerite's opinion of Theo is colored by her overwhelming opinion of Paul to the point where when Theo disagrees with her her demeanor gets downright hostile.  And this is one of my few nitpicks.  Until we see Marguerite and Paul together, her emotions go from one end of the spectrum to the other.  She wants to give him the benefit of the doubt...but the evidence...and Theo is just as bad.

Later, after Russia and things happen that affect Marguerite more profoundly then any other character, a tension envelops the three that made sense, but not for the reasons Gray illustrates.  Spoiler starts here: [spoiler]In Russia, Paul is unable to retain control of his dimension's "self" so he is subsumed by the Russian Paul.  Marguerite, who retains her connection, falls in love with Russian Paul and not just because he reminds of her Paul.  Russian Paul ends up sacrificing his life for Marguerite and she feels immense guilt over this.  To the point where she feels like she's betraying Russian Paul by having confusing feelings and emotions for her Paul.  But she doesn't explain this to ANYBODY.  Instead she internalizes it, gives Paul, who made his feelings for her clear several times, a cold shoulder.[/end spoiler]

I think its great that Gray had Marguerite so morally conflicted.  The situation is one that some (though not all) authors of this genre encounter, but rarely does it seem to have actual effect.  Part of this I think is because in Gray's world there is a clear difference between the "native" resident of the dimension and the "interloper".  And I understood WHY Marguerite felt the way she did.  However the resolution felt abrupt given the emotional gravity of it.

Honestly this is a wonderful, great book.  Its attention grabbing, its intriguing and Gray builds a universe that has so much potential.