By Georgia Wilkinson
When you’ve finished reading Andrew Crumey’s Mobius Dick, the best thing that you can do is something else. Go for a walk, play your xbox, write bad fanfiction, whatever it is you do to blow off steam and pass the time. On no account can you allow yourself to think about what you’ve just read; if you do so, there is a very real possibility that your brain will turn to mush and spill out of your ears like soup.
That isn’t to say that you won’t enjoy Mobius Dick, just that you might not be able to work out what’s going on. The book tells two or three different stories, in two or three different time periods across two or three different versions of reality, and Crumey jumps between these often without clear markers – you find yourself beginning a new chapter and suddenly thinking “oh, we’ve jumped back to you – okay…”. I found myself having to re-set my brain slightly for each of the characters and story lines, and while this didn’t necessarily spoil the book, it did slow down the pace somewhat.
While each of the vast array of characters is well-drawn and engaging, Mobius Dick is more of a beginners guide to philosophy and quantum physics disguised as a novel. The multiple worlds theory (the idea that every event creates a myriad of parallel worlds in which the event went differently, all of which co-exist in parallel but opposite time-streams) and the flexibility of time itself are the driving gears of the interconnecting plots. While there are a few sections which become a little over-complicated, needing exceptionally careful reading to keep them straight in your head, there are few and far between, and throughout all of these Crumey manages to explain what is a horrendously complex topic in such terms that the layman can understand enough to follow his plot.
Once we’ve got a hold of the basic ideas, Crumey makes us play with them, dancing his characters and plot-lines over, around and through one another to create bigger tapestry that builds up and slowly reveals to the reader the infinity of possibilities, the improbability of existence and the elasticity of time.
It is said that if you open your mind too much, your brain’ll fall out, and that’s a fair estimation of how I felt after reading this book. While it demonstrates the infinite possibilities that we are faced with, it can also leave the reader feeling like there is no point trying to fight the inevitability of the universe.