This is not, however, a great jumping-on point to the series; it feels more like the second half of “The Scapegracers” than a sequel per se, with little time spent in any kind of onboarding recap for new readers. Navigating complex character relationships and key plot points might be challenging without having read the first volume — but they’re both extraordinary.
It’s difficult to say whether the book moves too quickly, or if I simply hurtled through it of my own volition; sometimes a meal smells so good you start bolting it down on that savor alone, barely stopping to taste it because it’s kicked your appetite into high gear. All I want is more — more of these sweet vicious girls and their helplessly loving leader, changing themselves, one another and the world.
In Nathan Tavares’s debut, A FRACTURED INFINITY (Titan, 363 pp., paperback, $15.95), Hayes Figueiredo is a hard-living film school dropout turned documentarian — but in at least one other world, he’s a genius physicist who invented a box called the Envisioner, a probability-calculating device that can accurately model the past and future. It also contains hours of footage of someone who looks a lot like Hayes working on it.
In Hayes’s world, a physicist named Yusuf Hassan recruits him to work on figuring out the Envisioner’s origins — and they fall in love. But it soon becomes clear that their relationship is entangled with the fate of the universe, and the survival of billions comes down to whether Hayes will allow Yusuf to die.
What follows is a very beautiful, tender portrait of a romance, its unremarkable mundanity made precious against the backdrop of so many iterations. Yusuf, Hayes and their relationship recur under different names, occupations and dynamics; the differences emphasize certain elements of their personalities, like ingredients in the same cocktail mixed in varying proportions. Over and over, the book seems to ask why the multiverse is so set against the simple, quiet beauty of two men making a life together.
I’ve read a lot of novels with dialogue-forward three-act plots that feel as if they’re auditioning to be adapted into screenplays. “A Fractured Infinity” does the reverse: It’s a delightful, spiraling, idiosyncratic book that uses the language and techniques of filmmaking to structure a more interesting reading experience. Hayes talks to the camera, uses “voice-over” for himself and other characters, has chapters titled “Sneak Preview” and “Footage Farm,” and allows himself to zoom in and out on his story to keep the whole thing flexible and propulsive.