Review: The Infinite Future

In an ambitious second novel that combines literary and speculative fiction, Tim Wirkus (City of Brick and Shadow) rolls a host of wildly disparate stories into one structured yet trippy whole.

Wirkus opens with a foreword introducing himself as the messenger. He knew narrator Danny Lazlo, Wirkus tells the reader, as an enigmatic classmate at Brigham Young University. The two were briefly reacquainted when Danny gave Wirkus a manuscript by obscure Brazilian science fiction writer Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie entitled The Infinite Future. With it is a 200-page translator's note by Danny, his account of the wild and woolly journey he and two companions undertook to track down the mysterious author.

Danny first hears about Salgado-MacKenzie during a research trip to São Paulo, while working on a flailing attempt at the Great American Mormon Novel--his project for the highly suspect Young Religious Novelist Grant. Librarian Sergio Antunes, Danny's liaison, introduces him to Salgado-MacKenzie's stories of spaceship captain Irena Sertorian and her valiant crew, who travel the universe facing deadly peril and ethical dilemmas in the style of classic Star Trek. Sergio, a lifelong fan, also shows Danny a book proposal indicating the existence of an unpublished Salgado-MacKenzie novel. Danny goes home to demands from the granting agency that he return the money they paid him, with interest. Soon, however, Sergio renews contact, claiming to have found a lead on Salgado-MacKenzie's whereabouts through Dr. Harriet Kimball. The feminist scholar was excommunicated from the Church of Latter-Day Saints and once translated some of Salgado-MacKenzie's work. She regrets never finding out whether he was "a raving crank or one of the greatest minds of his generation." Together, the three undertake a journey to find the man at the heart of the mystery and seek out The Infinite Future in the most unlikely of places.

To call Wirkus's opus labyrinthine perhaps conveys its scope and intricacy. Unlike a true labyrinth, however, The Infinite Future contains blind alleys that may not contribute to forward momentum, although they always provide a thought-provoking diversion. Wirkus swings wide, presenting an obsessive quest, a road trip story, a two-sided look at Mormonism and faith itself, a mystery and, finally, The Infinite Future, the lost novel. With more layers than Damascene steel, the end result shouldn't work but, against all odds, it does. As Wirkus the character muses, "any story that creates a more potent and delightful version of itself in the reader's memory" has pulled off a magical metamorphosis, and Wirkus the author has given us just such a story. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Two novels in one, The Infinite Future follows a man in search of a mysterious Brazilian author and also contains that author's long-lost unpublished science fiction novel.

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