The Last Universe

The Last Universe

4.3 6
by William Sleator
     
 

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Sleator is at his sci-fi best with this quantum thriller, now available in paperback

In this gothic, sci-fi thriller from a master storyteller, Susan and her wheelchair-bound brother, Gary, discover a mysterious maze in the vast gardens of their isolated home. Planted by a scientist uncle who disappeared long ago, the maze offers seemingly endless routes and… See more details below

Overview

Sleator is at his sci-fi best with this quantum thriller, now available in paperback

In this gothic, sci-fi thriller from a master storyteller, Susan and her wheelchair-bound brother, Gary, discover a mysterious maze in the vast gardens of their isolated home. Planted by a scientist uncle who disappeared long ago, the maze offers seemingly endless routes and choices. The teenagers discover that each turn they take alters their world in some way. Sickly Gary sees a chance to change his fate; Susan sees that they may both be lost forever. Sleator keeps readers guessing right up to the shocking ending.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Sleator (The Boy Who Couldn't Die) turns one of modern science's most puzzling fields into fodder for suspense, with mixed results, in this novel narrated by 14-year-old Susan. Her brother, 16-year-old Gary, recently became ill and is confined to a wheelchair; he ponders quantum physics and tries to spend as much time outdoors in his family's enormous garden as he can, for which he needs Susan's help. One afternoon, the pair gets diverted while returning from the pond in the garden, and Susan becomes convinced that the garden paths are moving. Gary explains that it is a "quantum garden," one in which the odd and unpredictable rules of quantum physics play out on a large scale ("The basic matter of the world is complete craziness... all of life, all of the universe is governed by this uncertainty, this craziness," says Gary). This idea leads to the probability of multiple universes, including the possibility that in one or more of those universes, Gary is not sick. The story takes a confusing turn when brother and sister spot versions of themselves in the garden ("Just get away from them. If we meet up with ourselves, it will be like matter and anti-matter-we'll wipe ourselves out," Gary explains). Sleator's foreword lays out the principles he explores, and he uses his complex subject to frame some interesting questions. But unlike many of his other novels, the plot trumps the characterization here, and the narrative unfortunately comes off as more frivolous than compelling. Ages 12-16. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this eerie science fiction exploration of quantum mechanics, the author asks what might happen if the micro-world and the macro-world in which we live started to merge. Fourteen-year-old Susan resents the time she has to spend pushing her wheelchair-bound brother, Gary, around in the vast backyard gardens of their Massachusetts home. The gardens, which have been in the family for generations, are sprawling and mysterious. As Susan and Gary venture further into the garden, they find exotic flowers growing there that should not be there—and that is just the beginning of the strange happenings. In an effort to help her brother find himself in a universe in which he can walk again, though against her better judgment, Susan enters the maze. Ultimately, Susan and her brother return but significantly changed. The author has published other notable science fiction novels for teens, including House of Stairs, which was named as one of the best novels of the twentieth century by the Young Adult Library Services Association. 2005, Amulet Books/Harry Abrams, Ages 12 up.
—Valerie O. Patterson
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Teenagers Susan and Gary live in the house that has belonged to the family for generations. Now Gary has contracted a disease that has him confined to a wheelchair and traveling to the hospital regularly for transfusions. Susan is unwillingly spending her summer vacation pushing her brother through the garden and woods of their peculiar estate. Gary has been reading about quantum physics, a subject in which Great-Uncle Arthur won an international prize many years earlier. He is also the one largely responsible for the creation of the garden and just possibly the maze that no one has ever seen except from one window in the house. Gary is convinced that his illness has somehow triggered a quantum event that is responsible for the bizarre changes he and his sister are finding each day. He also seems to be getting better after each visit to the garden and so Susan finds herself torn between her fear of it and her fear for her brother's life. Sleator is a master of suspenseful science fiction and that mastery is evident here. The action is slow at first, but as the garden begins to change, the pace picks up correspondingly. Ultimately Susan must brave the maze on her own when Gary is rushed to the hospital. The twist at the end is entirely logical (if anything about quantum can be) and entirely shocking. Well-drawn characters and a believable story will catch and hold Sleator's fans and make new ones. Another solid entry from a deservedly popular author.-Elaine Fort Weischedel, Milton Public Library, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A summer ruined by having to cater to her brother's inexplicable illness leaves Susan friendless, bored and resentful enough to become a poster child for teen angst. But how can she know that things will get worse-much worse-and soon? Slowly, Susan and her brother Gary connect his increasingly serious weakness to disturbing events in the garden of their ancestral home-circumstances that introduce the dual concepts of quantum theory and the uncertainty principle. As in much science fiction, plot drives this book and concepts drive the plot. Susan's fearfulness and Gary's manipulative bullying ring true, adding suspense to the mix. After Sleator sets the scene, the story takes off and tension builds exponentially to a totally surprising conclusion. Although explanations of quantum events are occasionally heavy-handed, the exploits of these two teens in trouble, guided by a cat with strange abilities, will keep readers turning pages until the very end of this exploration of multiple universes. (Science fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810958586
Publisher:
Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/2005
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Lexile:
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 16 Years

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