"Sometimes it feels like everything caught fire at once. The world took a wrong turn somewhere.”
What if you discovered the world really did take a wrong turn? If you were offered a way out, would you take it? … And at what cost?
2021. The good news is that the pandemic never happened here. The bad news … well, it's not great. The unthinkable happened. He won, again. And now there are tanks in the streets. Amid the spiraling chaos, one man is given a chance to escape his reality. But what will he find on the other side?
A father and husband, traumatized by America’s rapid descent into a fascist police state, is shocked to discover the explanation for a series of mysterious seizures: He’s in the wrong universe. A quantum parasite has set him adrift amidst various branching timelines, and a drug trial promises to return him to the branch where he belongs. But it might be too good to be true.
Readers are calling Branches: A Novel “The Man in the High Castle for the age of doomscrolling.” It's a fast-paced mystery that combines the history-bending science fiction of Philip K. Dick and the fully-realized dystopian worlds of Margaret Atwood with a sharp, original voice from debut author Adam Peter Johnson.
Take a journey through the multiverse that shines a light on various crises playing out in America today, from political extremism to police brutality. It’s a story that explores the road not taken, questions the nature of reality, and asks what it would take for one person to change their reality. Branches: A Novel is a page-turner full of surprises and a deeply personal journey through fear, grief and redemption.
The nameless protagonist has in recent years felt broken by his country’s circumstances, and Johnson skillfully captures the grief and trauma of life in a society racked by chaos, brutality, intolerance, and anger. While Branches steers clear of specifics, readers will pick up on references to events, political viewpoints, and major figures, though that vagueness defangs some of Johnson’s outrages, such as a subplot regarding systemic racism and police brutality that never quite gels. Moreover, as the protagonist shifts between timelines, encountering ever more authoritarian excess and problematic policies, the narrative never slows down to unpack these moments’ full significance.
Despite the speculative premise, Johnson’s emphasis lies on the narrator’s personal life, examining his relationship to wife and son, his lingering grief over his recently deceased mother, and his hatred of that unspecified President. The constant shifting scenarios, however, make it hard to get a good feel for the protagonist’s original status quo, for what he’s lost and what he hopes to gain. That lack of specifics diminishes the emotional power of this bold experiment in timelines and trauma, though lovers of alternate histories will find much that fascinates.
Takeaway: This journey through a thousand possible presents will appeal to fans of alternate histories looking for a cerebral adventure.
Great for fans of: Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Dexter Palmer’s Version Control
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: C+