Omega – Christopher Evans (2008)
Evans takes a different approach to alternate universes here, where lecturer Owen Meredith is blown up outside Hamleys and wakes up in hospital not only almost paralysed but in mental rapport with his other self from a different timeline. This is Owain Meredydd, injured at exactly the same place and time, but in a very different London (and Europe) indeed. Owain is a major in the army of a European Alliance. In this world, Hitler died very early in the Nazi’s rise and more moderate figures took the lead, stamping out the extremism and uniting Europe in a war against the Soviet Union.
Having been quite passionate about Evans’ Aztec Century I was looking forward to this. Sadly, it is quite a difficult read. The initial problem is the schizophrenic nature of the novel, which bounces between the two lives. Although Owen is aware of Owain’s life and thoughts, and can to a small extent influence them, Owain seems unaware of his other self. Now and again, there is a confusion as to what world we are in. There is also some doubt as to whether Owen’s world is the one we inhabit. This was a suggestion raised in Aztec Century, since the Aztecs had discovered a portal to other realities, although the alternatives were infinite.
Also, there is much exposition and re-telling of backstories. Evans employs the device of the invalid reliving scenes of his life, as well as discovering the past of his alter-ego.
There is also much Jeremy Kyle fodder in the Owen/Owain relationships with lovers and family. Both have the same brother with mental health issues, and both seem to be in love with another man’s wife. There is much turgid exploration of these matters, but the exploration never gets beyond any familiar boundaries.
Around halfway through the novel things pick up a little. I was reminded, quite randomly, of Margaret Rutherford in her film version of ‘Mrs McGinty’s Dead’. Rutherford, playing a Miss Marple Christie would never have recognised, goes undercover at a theatre company to unmask a murderer and submits a play. Ron Moody, I think, as the pompous director, states, having thrown away half of the manuscript, ‘Aha! I think I have discovered the glimmerings of a plot!’
From this point, the novel finds its feet and takes off, finding Evans back on form.
In Owain’s world he discovers things are not exactly how he supposed them to be and ultimately finds himself on the horns of a moral dilemma, having already sunk to a level of moral barbarity due to his paranoia and misplaced suspicion.
Omega, it seems, is real; a doomsday weapon capable of excising huge volumes of space on the surface of the earth and depositing it elsewhere. Will Owain have the integrity and stamina to do the right thing?