If you kiss your spouse’s double, is it cheating?

If you met your quantum double, would you like them?

And most pressingly of all, how on earth would you find your way back to your own home in your own universe? In Vitali Vitaliev’s new novel, his confused characters, Viktor and Katherine Petroff, and Victor and Catherine Petrov, are desperate to find their way around the multiverse…

What’s it about?

Viktor and Katherine Petroff return from a short holiday in Majorca to find somebody is in their house.

Meanwhile, Victor and Catherine Petrov return from a short holiday in Majorca and on the way home suffer a minor traffic collision.

At the same time, Victor and Katherine Petrovas are involved in a major car crash and are killed outright.

Three near identical couples. Two have slipped through the cracks from other universes. Trapped in a world which is almost – but not quite – like their own, they must work together to figure out how they travelled the multiverse to become stranded in a strange land.

The underlying theme of Vitali Vitaliev’s new science-fiction comedy thriller, however, is not so much the multiverse as that eternal question: how well do we know our loved ones? Relationships are strained, new attachments are formed and the beautiful little differences that make each of us unique are examined closely.

What’s it like?

‘Out of the Blu’ is an intriguing thought experiment that amuses where its scenes overlap and repeat. For the K’s, Viktor is the reader, the highbrow tourist seeking culture, while Katherine is the sun-worshipper, soaking up the beauty of the beach. For the C’s, this is reversed, and Catherine is the one who visits historic ruins while Victor lounges on the seaside. This reversal of details caused me to repeatedly flip back and forth between the sections involving each couple, but the real amusement arises when they try to replicate the circumstances that led to their switching multiverses…

Vitaliev is interested in the implications of meeting variations of oneself and ones loved ones. Couple this with the inevitable friction accrued between any long-term couple, and the sexual frisson caused by the familiar made new, and it’s perhaps no surprise that our couples are soon contemplating a spot of spouse-swapping – though as Viktor argues, ‘”if we stick with [Victor’s] parallel worlds theory…she is MY wife too!”

Final thoughts

Plot and discussion of the multiverse take centre stage here and I found the narration a little clunky in places, not due to an overload of science (this is kept quite light), just because Vitaliev’s written style is quite explanatory. He tends to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’. Still, there’s an amusing ending and ‘Out of the Blu’ is certainly something different from my usual reading material.

Expect much focus on spelling variations and probability theory: this is a humorous read for anyone who’s ever wondered – what if I could change one thing about myself / my partner? Be careful what you wish for…

‘Out of the Blu’,
Vitali Vitaliev,
2018, Thrust Books, paperback ARC
Many thanks to the publishers for providing me with a printed copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.