The prolific Walter Jon Williams is generally reliable, but Implied Spaces (2009) — although not without its impressive aspects — didn’t quite click for me.
In a post-singularity solar system filled with numerous “pocket universes,” Aristide is one of the founders of the new society, a restless immortal, now spending his days exploring the accidental “implied spaces” of the multiverse. His swashbuckling examination of the fantasy-gamer world of Midgarth, however, leads to information that the multiverse may be in jeopardy. One of the massive artificial intelligences that administers the multiverse has gone rogue, and someone, somewhere is weaponizing wormholes. After centuries of peace, a war appears to be brewing, and Aristide becomes an integral part of the effort to counter this threat — first going undercover to suss out intelligence against the enemy, and later participating in a military capacity. This peaceful, anything-is-possible universe of near-utopia is in dire jeopardy; can Aristide save the day?
As mentioned, the novel has its strengths: a solid plot structure, generally smooth writing, and simply piles of Big SF Ideas. But something is missing. I found the opening chapters in Midgarth dull, and found it a bit of a slog. The pace picks up a bit in the middle sections, as the universe acquires more definition and the plot comes into focus, but as the conflict escalates, events are depicted more broadly in vast tracts of summary and expositional dialogue. I didn’t much care for Aristide as a protagonist; he’s just a bit too formidable, too perfect, to worry about, particularly in a universe where personality back-ups and resurrection technology make death merely a temporary inconvenience. But my main problem involved the villain’s motive for going to war against this near-perfect, peaceful multiverse. Throughout, I found myself wondering why someone would want to destroy it, and when the reasoning is finally provided, I wasn’t convinced.
The novel raises interesting questions about the existential dilemmas such a near-perfect future for humanity might create, and fans of galaxy-spanning, big-concept SF will probably find much to like. But on the narrative level, Implied Spaces didn’t entirely work for me as a smooth, enjoyable read, its ambitious plot rather crushed by the weight of its ideas. I was interested, but never fully engaged.