Let's Play "Name That Book!"
February 14, 2014 11:18 PM   Subscribe

Back in the early-mid 90s, preteen me read a surreal science fiction book that I checked out from my local library. I remember a few tantalizing details, and I'm curious to find it and find out if it was any good. The basics: Many-worlds, and characters move between them unknowingly whenever they talk on the newfangled quantum telephone. Something bad happened to the US in most/all universes, but nobody in the multiverse knows what. It Gets Weird.

Nobody can get into the USA (it's there, but walled off/inaccessible); someone is trying to organize an expedition into the US from Mexico to discover what happened. Part of this plan involves getting the right versions of the right people all in one instance of the universe by getting them to make phone calls, then convincing them not to make or accept any more calls once they're in the "right" universe. One of the POV characters is not a secret agent, but many of his alternate-universe selves are (leading to confusion when he ends up in a universe where his girlfriend is a secret agent, and the version-of-him who just swapped out is, but he is not). I remember the group crossed over the border into the US and then things got really weird, to the point where young-me lost interest and put down the book.

It seems like it should be google-able, but it's not... any ideas what this is?
posted by Alterscape to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (I'm pretty sure it's not The Coming of the Quantum Cats, even though it sounds similar. I'm pretty sure the US was just "gone" in all accessible worlds, and that the characters couldn't control/weren't aware that they were moving between versions of the world).
posted by Alterscape at 11:27 PM on February 14, 2014

Sounds Phillip K Dick -esque
posted by thelonius at 1:59 AM on February 15, 2014

Best answer: Would it be Finity by John Barnes that you are looking for?
posted by N-stoff at 7:04 AM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Did you know that based on the description, N-stoff, or did you search? If the latter, what terms? Trying to figure out how I managed to not find this via search.
posted by Alterscape at 12:50 PM on February 15, 2014


This book has been a splinter in my mind for over a decade now -- the only thing I could remember from it is a passage describing tiny, imperceptible jumps into parallel universes whenever people used the phone (like there being a few extra microns in your shirt button). And then another scene describing being trapped in a world-hopping, pleasure-seeking algorithm that feels like "whatever being nanoseconds away from being perfectly happy feels like."

It never quite rose to the level of needing to Ask Metafilter, but it's bugged me off and on for years now. Thanks so much for asking this, Alterscape -- and thanks to N-stoff for finding the answer!
posted by Rhaomi at 3:33 PM on February 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

That is a book I won't be forgetting any time soon. John Barnes has written some odd and disturbing stories over the years and that is one of the stranger ones.
posted by N-stoff at 8:27 PM on February 15, 2014

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