Release Date: November 22, 2022
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Science Fiction
Film-maker Hayes Figueiredo is struggling to finish the documentary of his heart when handsome physicist Yusuf Hassan shows up, claiming Hayes is the key to understanding the Envisioner – a mysterious device that can predict the future.
Hayes is taken to a top-secret research facility where he discovers his alternate self from an alternate universe created the Envisioner and sent it to his reality. Hayes studies footage of the other him, he discovers a self he doesn’t recognize, angry and obsessive, and footage of Yusuf… as his husband.
As Hayes finds himself falling for Yusuf, he studies the parallel universe and imagines the perfect life they will live together. But their lives are inextricably linked to the other reality, and when that couple’s story ends in tragedy Hayes realises he must do anything he can to save Yusuf’s life. Because there are infinite realities, but only one Yusuf.
With the fate of countless realities and his heart in his hands, Hayes leads Yusuf on the run, tumbling through a kaleidoscope of universes trying to save it all. But even escaping into infinity, Hayes is running out of space – soon he will have to decide how much he’s willing to pay to save the love of his life.
“Tavares hits the gas, sending the plot rocketing through dozens of fascinating possible Earths. The epic love story forms an intense emotional core and Hayes’s conversational narration charms. Anyone looking for queer sci-fi should check this out.” – Publishers Weekly
“With a narrative voice full of charm and punch, gripping from page one, the story unpeels layers of Hayes’s life while painting a hopeful near-future Earth. The cozy pace ramps to a dazzling finale exploring the resilience of entangled time and the malleability of morality when love is on the line and power free at hand. A wonderful debut perfect for fans of Arrival and The Space Between Worlds.” – Essa Hansen, Nophek Gloss, Orbit 2020
“Razor sharp prose, this complex, intelligent novel is ultimately empowering.” – Kaaron Warren, author of Slights and more
“A cinematic rollercoaster ride … but the real beating heart of the novel is the compelling gay love story that I will remember for a long time: brilliant, flawed, multi-layered and beautifully human.” – Emmi Itäranta, author of The Moonday Letters
Excerpt: Chapter Five: Hypothesis
Yusuf hung back a few steps while I walked me into the lunar landscape of the Theater, with its white-tiled floors glossy like they were slick with rain, and walls of polished steel dotted with huge screens. A security feed played on one of the screens above and I watched myself creeping into the room like I was walking barefoot over hot coals. Towards the hulking spider of a machine in the center, under a latticed greenhouse-like roof.
A dozen or so techs puttered around with glass tablets by two steel workstations, with Kaori nearby. They all froze when I walked toward the machine. Yusuf joined the flock, so no chance he was offering me backup.
The roof must’ve been one giant FantiSee screen because a flock of seagulls flew across the panes, even though we were underground. A watercolor sky, the vivid blue of Genesis’s eyeshadow. Normally, I’d be itching to call her. We had a habit of rescuing each other, her bailing me out of jail that time a guy at a bar had called her a rug-sucking bitchbot and I’d slugged him. Me bailing her out of jail after another one of her protests had stopped traffic in the middle of the city. As I paid her bail after hocking one of my cameras, an officer yakked something about how she was lucky she lived here or she’d be in the fucking scrapheap.
I’d met her around eight years back, just when I’d started thinking, you should probably quit giving yourself a pass for being a mess all the time and actually—you know—try. When she heard about my past, she was basically the first person not to treat me not like some damaged thing made out of glass.
“Excuses are so unbelievably boring,” she’d told me. “What really grinds my gears—pardon the pun, babe—is that you people run on excuses.”
I could have used some of her no-nonsense while I stared at the Envisioner. The machine was the size of a small electric two-door car, held up on six dull metal legs that were jointed at wide angles. Its matte gunmetal gray surface had hundreds of facets, like some giant semi-precious stone worked at for decades by a manic jeweler. The surface barely reflected the fake sunlight from the FantiSee screen above.
I stepped over a snake of black cable that led from the machine to the workstations. My eyes were locked on the machine, and it yanked me closer—some horizontal free-fall like I was bungee jumping while attached to a piano. Four screens, slightly domed and with a greenish tint, were set into its surface, its panels etched with what looked like cave drawings. Oversized dials and switches glowed the color of hard candies.
My first semester in film school, I’d roamed the neighborhood on trash day and had hauled a bunch of ancient TVs into my truck. Then, I’d duct-taped them together, wedged some cherry bombs in between, and filmed the thing blowing up on super slo-mo. A classmate named Rachel, who I’d really wanted to like if she hadn’t been so unbearably pretentious, had said something like, “I love that it’s a commentary on the destructive power of technology.” Sure, I’d told her. That was completely what I’d meant.
Really, I’d just wanted to blow shit up.
The machine looked like the big brother of my duct-tape craft project, here for revenge.
“Sorry about all the tests,” Kaori said. She hovered close enough by me that I could smell some whiff of eucalyptus. But she didn’t seem like the perfume type.
“Yeah. What’s my deal? Radioactive blood? Am I a superhero?” My Soryteller voice, again. I must’ve been playing it up for the machine, waiting nearby like a spider crouching to pounce.
“Not unless your superpower is mild hypertension.”
“That’s pretty boring.”
“Yes.” She paused. “Would you mind stepping closer? And grabbing those two dials there?” She asked so casually, nodding to nubs on the machine that could’ve been volume controls of a huge stereo.
Sweat pricked in one of my armpits.
“I am one-hundred percent not touching this thing until you give me a little more to go on.”
She pressed her lips together in a hard line. “What do you want to know?”
“What does that… thing…”
“Sure. What does the Envisioner do?”
“It’s a modeling device that determines the most probable expected outcome of a given situation.”
Even though I flunked my Stats for Idiots class before I dropped out of college, I could wrap my brain around her annoying vaguery.
“You’re kidding me. You’re saying this machine tells the future?”
“I’m saying that this is about probability and—”
“How are you keeping this away from the rest of the world? They deserve to know.”
“We’re testing foreign technology in a secure environment.”
“I call bullshit. And I still don’t know how you got that footage of the—the other me.”
“The device has a recording function and we’ve been able to access some of the existing footage. This is already far more than you have clearance to know. I think I’m being very accommodating here. Now, please touch the dials.”
On one of the Envisioner’s domed screens, my face was warped, like it was reflected on the surface of a green bubble. For all the cameras pointed at the machine and recording everything happening here, the machine was watching right back with spider eyes of its own.
“I’m not touching shit. You touch them.”
Behind Kaori by one of the workstations, I saw Yusuf shift his weight and look down, trying to hide a smirk. In one clipped motion, Kaori folded her tablet in half and slipped it into the front pocket of her white lab coat.
“Fine. You want a demonstration?”
“Sure. Gaze into your crystal ball.”
She plucked a pen from her coat’s breast pocket.
“Hide this pen somewhere in the Compound.Here, take my badge and you can scan into wherever you want.Then I’ll ask the machine a question.”
She actually smiled. With her high cheekbones, she looked for a second like a hornet just before the sting.
I plucked the pen and her badge and breezed out of the Theater. I figured with the security cameras, there was no place in this whole facility that Kaori couldn’t see. I dropped the pen in a tank in one of the toilets in the nearby all-gender restrooms, betting Big Sister at least wouldn’t spy on people on the can.
When I circled back to the Theater, her hornet smile hadn’t faded at all.
“Ready?” she asked.
“I still call bullshit.”
“You want to take a peek at that sheet of paper, over there?” She bobbed her head at one of the machine’s panels, where a sheet of paper dangled from a thin slit.
I tore the sheet off at its perforated edge. When I flipped it over, I saw a single printed line, the letters made up of tiny dots.
I still call bullshit.
Someone sucked all the air out of the room. I heard a high whine, that day-after-a-concert ringing of slaughtered ear cells. When I looked up, Kaori actually winked.
“Care to know what I asked?”
Yeah, I touched the dials.
They were slick and cool in my hands. I spun them, holding my breath and waiting for lightning to lance me in the gut. Kaori hovered at my side, guiding with, could you place your hands there, and there?I ran my palms over the facets, each tiny cliff a drop in my stomach. Nothing. I watched Kaori’s unreadable, brown eyes move from me down to the swirling lines on her glass tablet. At least the facets kind of warmed under my touch. She gave me nothing.
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Figueiredo,” she said, stepping back after a few agonizing minutes of silence while I brailled the machine. “It’s getting late. You’re welcome to stay here the night while we work on your travel arrangements home.”
And then she turned on her chunky white sneakers and whooshed through the sliding doors of the Theater, with the tails of her coat flapping behind her. The other researchers in the room were still as pillars of salt.
Yusuf was the first to come back to life, popping to my side to show me to a room. He tried to smile a little, which I appreciated as I tried to shake the cold in my gut that had seeped down through my palms when I’d touched the machine.
Redness crept up my neck and burned the tips of my ears. I’m embarrassed to say that what stung the most, while Yusuf led me down more hallways, was how really embarrassed I was. For a minute I thought I was special. I know that’s whiny and obnoxious, and thankfully I got over it once I was alone in my room like fuck that. I’d always avoided the delusions of being an undiscovered auteur or whatever, because I knew I was just Some Guy and was mostly happy with what I’d had. I should’ve died a long time ago, but I didn’t, meaning the rest of my life was a bonus even if it wasn’t perfect.
But when I boarded a plane for what I thought was my Hollywood break that then turned into maybe I have a connection to this machine from another universe,I let myself believe I was important. And now that was gone.
Book available for purchase here and here.
About the author
Nathan Tavares is a writer from Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up in the Portuguese-American community of southeastern Massachusetts and developed a love for fantastical stories at an early age, from superheroes to mythology. He studied English in college and received his MFA in creative writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His editorial work celebrates queer culture and historically excluded communities, with pieces appearing in GQ, Out, and elsewhere.