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Parallelities [Mass Market Paperback]

Alan Dean Foster
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 1998
"It seems you have acquired about you a field that affects the links between multiple parallel worlds, causing objects and individuals from these worlds to slip into yours . . . or you to slip into theirs . . ."

It was just an average day for tabloid reporter Max Parker when he arrived in Malibu for a demonstration of a brand new parallel-universe machine. But everything changed in an instant when inventor Barrington Boles succeeded in making Max the human gate to numerous parallelities.

Now Max was lost in a virtual sea of collateral worlds, confronting man-eating aliens, dinosaurs, talking frogs, dead Maxes, girl Maxes, old Maxes, even ghost Maxes. His only chance to escape the space-time continuum was to find Boles and hope the loony genius could rescue him. But how could he be sure which world was real, which Max was Max, and which Boles was the Boles who could stop the madness--or trap Max in the wrong world forever. . . ?

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About the Author

Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946 and raised in Los Angeles, California. After receiving a bachelor's degree in political science and a master of fine arts degree in motion pictures from UCLA in 1968-69, he worked for two years as a public relations copywriter in Studio City, California.

He sold his first short story to August Derleth at Arkham Collector magazine in 1968, and additional sales of short fiction to other magazines followed. His first try at a novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books in 1972.  Since then, Foster has published many short stories, novels, and film novelizations, including the New York Times bestselling Splinter of the Mind's Eye and Flinx in Flux.

Foster has toured extensively around the world. Besides traveling, he enjoys classical and rock music, old films, basketball, bodysurfing, and weightlifting. He has taught screenwriting, literature, and film history at UCLA and Los Angeles City College.  He and his wife live in Arizona.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

It was one of those special late June days that the Greater Los Angeles
Area Chamber of Commerce tries to bronze and preserve for all eternity--as
well as for the sake of civic advertising. Semitropically hot but not
suffocating, multicolumnar traffic on the freeways actually free of
vehicular stasis by nine o'clock in the morning, no major sigalerts, and
the limpid turquoise sky brandishing a lovely pink tint thanks to a
wispier-than-usual permeation of smog.

Other than in his highly restricted capacity as a civic-minded citizen,
Maxwell Parker could not have cared less about the current condition of
the metastasizing megalopolis's vaunted but frequently arteriosclerotic
freeway system. As one of those fortunate folk who could commute from home
to office on the overstressed but still highly preferable surface streets,
he was immune to such vehicular concerns. All he had to do was drive the
few blocks from his apartment building up to Lincoln Boulevard, cross the
Santa Monica Freeway, turn right on Wilshire, and mosey his leisurely way
up to Bundy Drive, occasionally shaking his head in empathetic but
distanced wonder at the traffic reports that periodically interrupted the
morning news.

He would have preferred keeping the Aurora's stereo set to one of L.A.'s
innumerable small specialty FM music stations, but starting the day by
listening to one of the several all-news channels was one way of getting a
jump on work. After all, the news was his business. Or rather, a certain
fringe element of it was. Max worked, unabashedly, in the journalistic
freak zone. His job was to make the news--not read about it.

Scrupulously avoiding eye contact with the haggard homeless hawkers of
makework newspapers who crowded the median on Lincoln and haunted the
street signals at the freeway overpass, he turned up Wilshire Boulevard.
Maneuvering skillfully around a shambling, shaggy, vaguely anthropoid
figure fervently hoping to force his energies upon the Aurora's already
speckless windshield, Max crossed Bundy and ducked smoothly down into the
Investigator's underground parking lot.

As a prolific, inventive reporter whose current status vacillated between
junior stringer and respected craftsman, his status was sufficiently
ambivalent to qualify him for a comparatively convenient parking space,
but on the lower level. Not only did he not mind having his car consigned
to the concrete abyss, he preferred it. The deeper in the multilevel
labyrinth one parked, the cooler one's car stayed during hot weather, and
the less it was subject to the unwanted attentions of visiting delivery
vehicles.

The modest but modern glass-sided high-rise was home to other enterprises
besides the paper, from the ubiquitous law offices that migrated
constantly in search of more prestigious addresses, to fledgling film
producers unable to afford locations close to the studios, Beverly Hills,
or the better parts of the San Fernando Valley.

The top six floors and most of the parking spaces belonged to the
corporation that owned Max Parker's employer, the International
Investigator. A youthful but energetic competitor of other weekly tabloids
like the Star, and the World, the Investigator had carved out a niche for
itself by emphasizing the newly grotesque as opposed to the traditionally
bizarre. Its computer-generated graphics were lively, its layout fresh,
its prose florid, its weekly quota of insupportable but nonlitigious
accusations slyly incendiary. It was a paper on the way up, its
circulation steadily increasing, and always on the lookout for
enthusiastic, moldable, and generally unprincipled young talent.

Max considered himself lucky. Still only in his late twenties, he had
already succeeded in dumping whatever ethics and integrity he might have
once possessed in return for scads of filthy lucre and a modicum of fame
within the field. Unlike some of his less fortunate coworkers, he had been
blissfully free of scruples for several years, dating his freedom from the
morning he had taken his carefully collected bonuses and used them to move
from the dump he had been shar-ing with a hopeless would-be screenwriter
and a short-order cook into a prime one-bedroom Santa Monica beach
apartment. By the end of the first week he knew in his heart that the
location and setting were worth any number of abstract moral principles.

He smiled to himself as the aged but still serviceable elevator carried
him upward. The owners didn't have to put more than the minimum back into
their hugely profitable old building. Given its location, people would
have lined up to rent the small but cozy apartments if they had come
without electricity, telephone, or running water.

The California summer sun was out and the UCLA coeds would soon be
emerging from hibernation, shedding their heavy winter coats in favor of
freshly molted thong and net swimsuits. Though it was still midweek, he
was already looking forward to the weekend.

"Hey, Max!" Phil Hong was a hyper would-be movie reviewer who lived beyond
his means by cadging loans from the gullible and uninformed, his relatives
as well as his coworkers. Around the office he was known, not always
affectionately, as Phil No-dough. Executing a feint to the left while
accelerating to his right, Max put a move on the eager younger writer
that, if he had been dribbling a basketball in a college game, would
certainly have made the Monday-night-after highlight film on any local
station.

"Sorry Phil--I'm late for the morning bull session. Talk to you later,
man." Leaving a slightly bedazzled Hong gaping foolishly in his wake, Max
lengthened his stride. He paused only long enough to say good morning to
Calliope Charming, manufacturing idle small talk sufficient to gain him a
decent gander at her estimable cleavage before moving on.

The
not-quite-the-top-floor-but-the-people-who-met-there-were-still-considered-of-moderate-importance-to-the-success-of-the-business
conference room boasted a long window with a pleasant, if not sweeping,
view of the Santa Monica Mountains. The stunted chaparral that clung
forlornly to those smog-swept slopes was barely visible through the
increasingly turgid brown atmosphere. As the sun rose higher in the sky,
the atmosphere heated up and the ozone gremlins awoke to their noxious
toil. What had begun as a Chamber of Commerce day was rapidly becoming
little more than a fading morning memory.

The room contained a long conference table; chairs fashioned of shiny,
fine-grain plastic; insistently throbbing air-conditioning; and small
green garbage cans that were already half full. He greeted his colleagues
cheerily, swapping unforced insults and convivial small talk with the ease
of long practice, before sliding into a chair and removing his laptop from
its satchel. Hatcher (oh blissfully apropos moniker for a tabloid
scribe!), who concentrated on sports-related scandals and turpitude, used
pen and paper. So did the excessively slim but unmodelish Penelope
Nearing. Their concession to tradition impressed no one.

The raucous chatter terminated when Kryzewski lumbered in and took the
chair at the head of the table. It was as if a raven had somehow bought a
ticket to a convocation of crickets. Not only at the offices of the
Investigator but within the greater tabloid universe as a whole, Moe
Kryzewski commanded a good deal of respect as well as admiration. In the
elegiac prose of an esteemed contemporary, it wasn't so much that the
senior editor knew shit from Shinola as the fact that during his more than
thirty years in the business he had been consistently able to sell the
former as the latter.

Flipping open the laptop, Max fingered a few keys. It was
middle-of-the-line, six months old, and would be outdated in another
three. At that time he would have to buy a new one. Not because the one he
now owned was insufficient for his needs. In point of fact, a two-year-old
edition of the same machine would have been more than adequate for the
work he did. But it was important to keep up appearances. In the tabloid
business the appearance of the writer didn't matter nearly as much as the
appearance of his laptop.

After insuring that the requisite files had been brought up to where he
could get at them quickly, he looked out into the respectful silence.
Eager, venal expressions transfixed the faces of his colleagues. He was
confident his own was no less.

"Well, what have you lazy pricks and prickesses got for me this morning?
There's a weekend edition to fill and we ain't got shit to put into it.
Longstreet!" Kryzewski barked.

The reporter in question looked up from her palmtop. Her delicate fingers
were small enough to manipulate the tiny keys, and to minimize mistakes
she had filed her nails down short as a longshoreman's. Around the office
she was known as "Longstocking," as in Pippi.

"It's been a slow week, Moe. My boy in Florida tells me some cracker's
hauled a six-legged gator out of the 'glades."

The editor snorted. In the old days he would have been filling the room
with cigar smoke: carbonized essence of Havana. But this was contemporary
Los Angeles. In his day Moe Kryzewski had battled crooked union bosses,
corrupt cops, angry politicians, and homicidal movie stars, but not even
he could stand against the nicotine police.

"Photo op, no story," he commented curtly. "Got anything else?"

Longstreet pursed her lips. "L'Elegace's new summer line for the ladies
features soft transparent plastic tops over Vassarely-styled printed
skirts and culottes...

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A true favorite of mine May 5 2000
By Kylopod
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I see this book has received a mixed response from fans, and this surprises me. I found this to be one of the most entertaining reads in a long while. I keep reading it over and over, sometimes skipping to my favorite parts and analyzing the details for further insight.
Following a rather slow beginning (I'd almost suggest skipping the first chapter), we encounter a slimy tabloid reporter who, due to an experiment run amok by an amateur scientist he's sent to interview, becomes doomed to sail randomly through parallel universes, many of which are at least as weird as the kinds of stories he writes for the tabloid paper. Each of these universes contains another version of himself, living life without any awareness of anything strange going on around him. (That is not the only one of the reporter's new "powers," but I don't want to give away the most original aspect of this novel.)
What I love about all of Foster's books is that his descriptions are so vivid, he makes the comically absurd seem almost plausible. You feel like you've lived in one of his books after reading it. Not only does he revel in verbose descriptions, he always seems to be pushing the limits of what's possible to put into words. His stories are often filled with "shocker lines," not all of which work, but are nonetheless very enjoyable.
In "Parallelities," each universe the reporter protagonist visits seems to encompass a story in itself, and in the process the book manages to cross several genres, leaving open more questions than it answers. The book is hilarious, because the reporter keeps convincing himself he's finally back in his own world, but we know he's only fooling himself.
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2.0 out of 5 stars It's worth a read if you're a little bored Nov. 18 1998
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I really wanted to like this book - I've always been a fan of Alan Dean Foster (Yeah, Flinx!) - but by the end of it all I could say was shrug and say "eh."
The central idea is interesting, if a bit over done. We've seen the "man torn from his own world, just trying to survive and get home" plotline thousands of times - dozens, even if we just count the AH versions. But there are few new plotlines, what counts is what you do with it.
And in my opinion, Foster doesn't do very much at all with this one.
To begin with, Maxwell Parker is not what you'd call a sympathetic character. Being a tabloid reporter, he's more than a little bit of a sleaze. Self-centered, egotistical, in love with himself, he's not someone you hang around with if you have a choice. And while this changes a little during the course of the book (nothing like meeting dozens of copies of yourself to give you a good feel for your weak points) , in the end, all Max really wants to do is go right back to the life he had before this all started, and in the meantime, all he's really doing is moping a lot. Self-centered depression is not what I call an ideal character development.
In fact, if I had to sum up what Max learns through all this it's "There's no place like home," a lesson The Wizard of Oz taught with much nicer characters - and which I have reservations about even there.
Foster introduces entirely too many characters that do a brief walk-on, set up themselves somewhat, and then are never seen again. I understand that most of these characters are "paras" that will vanish before the end of the chapter (by the very nature of the story), but it still feels like Foster is setting up someone to use and then just discarding them.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It's not the Commonwealth May 5 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've been a fan of Foster since I was about 8 or 10. I've read at least a dozen of his books, and this one certainly doesn't rank well among them. If you're used to The Damned, or Flinx in the Commonwealth, this book will no doubt leave you sadly disappointed.
When I first read this book, it was for an English Independent Study, and I read it along side HG Wells' War of the Worlds. Compared to Wells' incredibly long, slow descriptions, Parallelities was fast paced and well developed. Foster has the gift of quickly creating memorable worlds and characters. However, the nature of this book requires them to be discarded just as fast as they're created.
Alongside War of the Worlds, this was a welcome change from the tedium of 19th Century England. However, when looked at in a more modern light, Foster could have done better.
Without intending to offend anybody, Foster should stick to stories of the Humanx Commonwealth, his incredible namesake.
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By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This was the first book by Alan Dean Foster that I have ever read, and I must say I am impressed. I usually read books of Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler variety, but I was bored and it was there. As I started to read I was immediatly brought into a world where, at least for one man, the whole world changes in a second. So it's a desperate struggle for him to try and discover who he really is, and where he is really from. Along the way he encounters aliens, ghosts, other versions of himself (including a female one), and even a world occupied entirely by versions of himself!!! I enjoyed the small bits of humour thrown in and the actual science was kept to minimum. I highly suggest this book, no matter what you usually read, you will enjoy it!!!!!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Parallel universes and humor
This is my favorite book of Foster because I find it to be the one that expands my mind the most. It also made me laugh at times as the main character encounters numerous odd... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by Marge Reynolds
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites!
I must honestly say that, while this book wasn't waht I expected, I still loved it. Foster mixes humor, science fiction, and an engaging, story to make a great book that is fun to... Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2001 by A.W.
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever satire
An author should not have to stamp "satire" on the cover of a book to have readers look at it in the proper light. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 1999 by Kenneth R. Bridges
2.0 out of 5 stars Foster -- not at his best.
This book is definitely Foster. If you are paying attention - and who wants to do that reading Sci-Fi - you can pick out some insights to that theme Foster has been leading us to... Read more
Published on Dec 8 1998
1.0 out of 5 stars Skip this one
I saw this book and was ecstatic! Parallel universes _and_ Alan Dean Foster, what a promising combination. There's one problem. It's pure fluff, completely disconnected. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 1998
1.0 out of 5 stars This is probably the worst book I have ever read by Foster
This book is slow, boring and definitely not up to Mister Foster's past accomplishments. The main reason I find this so frustating is that I have read every thing else he has... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 1998
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