BOOK REVIEW: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Middle Grade/Science Fiction
If you think you understand quantum physics then you don’t understand quantum physics.
When Albie’s mum dies, it’s natural he should ask where she’s gone. His parents are scientists and they usually have all the answers. Dad mutters something about quantum physics and parallel universes, so Albie gets a box, his mum’s quantum computer, a Geiger counter, and a rotting banana, and sends himself through time and space in search of his mum.
What he finds may or may not be what he’s looking for, but he does learn the answers to some big questions.
Mum and Dad used to joke that their first date was one thousand metres beneath the moors. They went down the mine looking for dark matter – the invisible glue that sticks the universe together – and found each other instead. They got married and, skipping the embarrassing biology bit, eight months later I showed up. Albert Stephen Bright.
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is told with a simple voice but it covers some rather tough topics, resulting in a book that’s great for young or reluctant readers who are curious about quantum physics or who are dealing with loss.
As we read along on Albie’s adventures, we are given a brief look at such scientific theory as Schrodinger’s cat, Many-Worlds Interpretation, and the Large Hadron Collider to name a few, as well as the exploration of said “many-worlds”.
When I asked Mum why she needed such a big machine to look inside something so small, she told me that the Large Hadron Collider is like an underground race track fro atoms, but where the winner is the one who has the biggest crash. In the collider, these tiny particles race round and round in circles getting faster and faster until they smash together at almost the speed of light. Mum said this creates a mini Big Bang – a bit like the one that made the universe – and by studying this Mum and Dad hoped to find out exactly how everything began.
We get to meet the various other versions of Albie and see the ways in which their world differs from his, whether that change be something as big as an additional planet in the solar system, or as small as a different chromosome.
I open my mouth to start to explain exactly who I am, how I’ve travelled from a parallel universe and how everything’s going to be OK now.
And that’s when this other Albie punches me in the face.
I try to explain how I’ve used a quantum computer, a Geiger counter and a banana to travel from another universe inside a cardboard box. How I’m searching for my mum and to make everything right again. I even want to ask if he’s seen my next-door neighbour’s cat, but with the gaffer tape over my mount this all comes out more like “mff-SMURGLE-FLURGLE-GURGLE-mff!”
“So what do we do with it?”
Alba reaches up to the workbench to grab what looks like a thermos flask covered with wires, cables and duct tape.
“We put it inside this.”
“What’s that?” I ask. To be honest, I’m not sure how putting a fossil inside a high-tech flask of tea will help me find my mum.
Albie’s voice and sense of humour are immediately endearing, and readers are sure to laugh out loud often, all while witnessing the grieving process and learning about physics… things one might not assume would go so very well together.
At times the descriptions and world-building did seem a little rushed, but for a middle grade novel that deals with some rather heavy topics, choices have to be made between an easy, relatable, slightly less-fleshed out world-building and a book that is too long and flies over the heads of its intended audience. In this reviewer’s opinion, the author made the only choice he could, and the result is an intelligent yet accessible book with a plot that will keep readers interested.
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