Read of the Month: “Perpendicular Women: Adventures in the Multiverse” by Chris Coward

Perpendicular Women: Adventures in the Multiverse (Atmosphere Press 2023) by Chris Coward has a stunning cover design befitting the exceptionally intriguing story inside. Speculative fiction, the novel is divided into three parts, each featuring a different character: “Connection 1: Kara, Dreamer”; “Connection 2: Pandora, Leader”; and “Connection 3: Dawn, Champion.” Each section takes places in a different time. Most chapters begin with a quotation from M.R. Franks, the author of The Universe and Multiple Reality: A Physical Explanation for Manifesting, Magick and Miracles.

Kara’s story begins in 2012. A wife and mother of two teenage girls, Kara is presenting the keynote address at a tradeshow on kitchen countertops. She expects her despicable boss to announce her promotion at the tradeshow. This is her mundane life, replete with ordinary struggles. Before her presentation, she takes a walk in the desert and finds two flickering, magical stones. That marks the moment when her life slips out of the ordinary, presenting her with unimaginable adventures in a “Sparkly” universe.

One complication for Kara is her attraction and commitments to two men. Her husband Josh is an obsessive-compulsive whose illness makes him so miserable he often says and does mean things. The other man is the handsome, clever Ed, whom she knew in college. She reconnects with him at the tradeshow. At first, Ed seems to be too good to be true—and of course, he is exactly that. Both men are complex, making Kara’s initial choices all the more difficult.

Kara’s journey takes her into a lifestyle she thought she wanted, but like most heroes, she learns a lot of  surprising things about herself and others on her travels. While her adventures take her into other universes, Kara’s journey contains all the familiar aspects of the hero’s journey. She faces and overcomes obstacles and reassesses her values, discovering truths about life and how to best live it.

The novel takes time leaps. One is Pandora’s into Two-Moon World in 2098, a world that has developed even more destructive weapons than those on Kara’s Earth. Another is Dawn’s Earth in year 2084. Each universe has connections to the others: “In the multiverse, every action affects all of creation forever.”  This section set in 2084 drops off, incomplete. And readers learn “The adventures of perpendicular women will continue in the sequel, 6.11.99.” The ending—or rather non-ending—is reminiscent of other speculative fiction series like Lord of the Rings or Foundation. Readers will anxiously await the sequel.

In each section, Chris Coward expertly maintains suspense, leaving readers wondering not only if and how the protagonists will save themselves, but whether they will be able to save humankind, which seems destined to destroy itself. If that sounds all too familiar, it’s because it is. Problems faced in the multiverses are those humans face today with changing climate and destructive weapons of war. Perpendicular Women: Adventures in the Multiverse is an entertaining story by a talented author. We can’t wait to read the rest of this series based on a relatively new theory of physics.

Chris Coward

Chris Coward has written Congressional testimony, edited national magazines, headed marketing departments for two Florida companies, and taught college English. A past president of the Florida Writers Association, she enjoys working with other writers and administered its flagship writing competition for more than a decade. She holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the College of William and Mary with a minor emphasis in physics. She later earned an MA in English from George Mason University with a concentration in professional writing and editing. A Floridian, she adores her family, besties, and fur babies.

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