Number of pages: 342
The story opens with ordinary family man Jason Dessen leaving his house on what seems like an ordinary night, only to be taken hostage by a man in a geisha mask, whose voice sounds oddly familiar.
Jason is taken to a secret facility, where the mysterious man starts injecting himself in the arm, and the next minute, Jason wakes up in an unfamiliar place. When he escapes, and tries to go home, he finds his house is deserted, and also that he is no longer married to his wife. It becomes clear that he has somehow ended up in a parallel universe. Oddly, people who he meets seem to know him as a brilliant scientist, who previously left this parallel world. The injection he gave himself was also the only way that he is able to travel between different parallel universes.
Jason also narrates most of the book, except for a few chapters that revolve around Jason's wife, who is approached by another version of Jason, who seems to be taking over his life.
It should become fairly clear quite quickly who the man in the geisha mask is, and this book feels very like some of Philip K. Dick's works (particularly Eye in the Sky and "Flow, my Tears", the Policeman Said). I thought the book started off brilliantly, but started to feel like something that had been done before, many times, with the whole concept of a character finding themself in a parallel universe that was completely different. I thought the entire novel would also be about his experiences in this new reality, but I was wrong.
The third quarter of the novel entirely revolved around characters visiting a number of different universes, trying to find Jason's own world, with a limited number of chances to get it right. The only issue I had with this section was that again, it felt like it had been done before - on The Simpsons, Futurama and Family Guy, but I enjoyed the way that Blake Crouch portrayed the different versions of reality that he created.
Towards the end, there were some points where I thought the narrative slowed down a bit, but it did lead to a satisfying, if open-ended conclusion.
Overall, while this wasn't the most original concept I'd read, I found this compelling mostly through the narrative style, and the dark humour that was used at times. The book also raised a few good points such as the theory that you create a parallel universe with each decision you make, and the concept of trying to outwit an opponent who is another version of yourself, and therefore thinks the same thoughts.
I am hoping to read Blake Crouch's three Wayward Pines novels in the near future.
Next book: I Saw a Man (Owen Sheers)