Have you ever contemplated the limits of love? Flipped the emotion upside down to study the greedy roots of desire that feed on a connection that strong?
In A Fractured Infinity, Hayes’ devotion to Yusuf is stretched, punctured, warped, and repeatedly disembodied as he’s forced to choose between the death of his lover and that of billions of strangers. Neither would absolve him, but one would certainly demolish whatever remained.
As a documentary maker, Hayes peppers his narration with elements of filmmaking that prove compelling at times and slightly excessive at others. He does, however, manage to give it a Shakespearean feel, rearranging the multiverse at his fingertips into a proverbial stage.
By ushering an existential conflict onto the very first page, and an interrelational one onto the second, A Fractured Infinity quickly establishes itself as a production that will leave you teetering off the edge of your seat.
Quite fittingly, Tavares dazzles us with stunning realities, a complexity of being that’s mirrored in the characters’ expulsion from physicality, a shattering leap into the pool of probability, calculations that challenge both space and the self that aims to occupy it, as well as an imagination that can’t help but dribble over the margin — both liberated and violent.
And yet, despite A Fractured Infinity’s central thread of love and longing, it’s the novel’s existentialism that produces an electrifying current. Skewed and enhanced by its limitless premise, the story recasts Hayes as an archetype and his anguish as a moral quandary.
Both push him toward relatability. Neither spares him from the rage of human impotence. And so, as he’s relentlessly made and remade by the instincts and yearnings that fuse him to Yusuf, the concept of being prods the psyche,
With the disclosure of a fathomless reality, fear prevails. We see Hayes agonize first over the idea of accidentally losing Yusuf, then over the prospect of being the very magnet that repels him. Back on Earth, humans rally against the unrestrained possibility of life.
Existence doesn’t bow before death; it throat-punches its successor. This vigor informs much of the narrative. As a result, A Fractured Infinity tirelessly pursues its resolution, frog-leaping from circumstance to revelation.
Similarly, though we witness Hayes and Yusuf’s first encounter and ensuing courtship, their bond is one that seems predestined; neither shown nor told, but there to be absorbed. Maybe that’s why it never feels convoluted enough to justify acute emotional turmoil.
Arguably mismatched, the pair of soulmates seems to gain its status from the multiverse’s tendency to draw their iterations together over and over again. This we note and file away, but never pore over.
Truthfully, we’re never given the breathing room to do so. The braiding of the past and the present, made hairy by our knowledge of the tragedy to come, proves distracting. Bounding through portals in the continuum of life feels disorienting. And yet, Hayes’ breathless flight from inevitability keeps us enslaved by the metrics of a relationship that seems to defy all odds.
Locked in the vessel of Hayes’ crumbling mind, we admire his self-critique and torturous reflection. This helps bind us to him enough to make his folly our own, and his joy a palpable desire. Surprisingly, it’s the stony Kaori, the scientist responsible for dragging Hayes onto Yusuf’s orbit, that shares his headspace with us the most.
The complexity of A Fractured Infinity is so vast that the backstory has to be sliced up into little morsels. These are first filtered through Hayes’ self-deprecating stupor, then fed to us in between the pulls of a forceful plot. This way, no element ever proves devastating to a straining mind. But a sense of weariness does begin to set in.
And, while the chambers of Hayes’ heart undergo constant seizures, a wider topography is slowly unfurled. On it, the dangers posed by data mining and rapidly advancing technology are taken to the extreme, resulting in an intuitive critique of our current state; a constant what if murmured over Hayes’ shoulder.
It’s made meaner by the hindsight that suffuses his voice. And since Hayes is busy recounting events that have already taken place in one universe or another, a portion of the novel’s spontaneity is ripped from its pages. Solidified and pre-examined, even betrayal and grief seem more character-building than crippling.
Likewise, the part of the villain is shared among many, cutting through its tough parameters, “I’d seen enough movies where the villain — is that what he was, now?” As chaos and righteousness clash, all possible dimensions begin to slip out of focus. Reason tries to defy probability, opposing emotions bleed into one feeling. A charged pace chafes the surface of something deeper, darker, and more forbidding.
Nevertheless, A Fractured Infinity offers a delightful, meticulously planned adventure that blots any dissonance along the way by daring to think bigger, and to feel more broadly.
Publication date: November 1, 2022 (Titan Books)