24

I am trying to find a book I read maybe 40 years ago, but which has stuck with me.

There were many "parallel" worlds, each only slightly different (as usual). Most of the worldlines adjacent to ours are uninhabited nuclear wastelands, wherein societies that resemble ours all blew themselves up. If I remember correctly, the whole section of the metaverse is known as "The Blight".

Part of the plot hinges on the broad understanding that there are NO surviving world lines in the blight, and yet ours is one that escaped the holocaust that laid waste to the rest. I also recall that this has led to it being used as a secret base, although I don't remember for what nefarious purpose.

Does this sound at all familiar?

2
  • 7
    Hi, welcome to the site. Are you sure you mean metaverse here, rather than multiverse...? Jul 4, 2022 at 21:33
  • 1
    This could be one of the several paratime police stories written by H. Beam Piper.
    – NomadMaker
    Jul 5, 2022 at 1:37

1 Answer 1

32

Could be Worlds of the Imperium by Keith Laumer

Plot summary

Brion Bayard, an American diplomat on assignment in Stockholm, Sweden, attempts to evade a man following him, only to find himself kidnapped by agents of the Imperium from a parallel world. Taken to the home world of the Imperium, he is introduced to the aristocratic members of the government, which rules most of the civilized world from London, having been formed by the union of the British Empire, which included America, and the German and Austro-Hungarian empires of Europe, with neutral Sweden added as an impartial component of the mixture. He is impressed by the commitment to duty of the Imperial officials he meets and drawn to a particularly noble lady. Surprisingly, the Imperial officials also include an analogue of Hermann Göring who – as Nazi Germany never existed – is a fairly honest and decent person, completely free of the crimes he would have committed in our history,

The main reason for Bayard's abduction, however, is that the Imperium is under attack from another parallel world.

The Maxoni-Cocini drive, invented in the Imperium universe by Italian scientists/experimenters Giulio Maxoni and Carlo Cocini at the end of the 19th century, is the technology for traveling between worlds and is extremely dangerous. Only if several sensitive parameters are tuned exactly can disaster be avoided and the trans-world transportation effect be achieved. Almost all worlds where its development is attempted or even inadvertently stumbled upon are destroyed, often in bizarre and horrible ways.

The collection of time lines where such disasters have occurred is known as the Blight, and the rare ones where the Earth survives are known as Blight Insulars, or BIs. BI-1 is the Imperium, where, by rare chance, the Maxoni-Cocini drive was successfully developed. The Imperium has become rich and powerful by trading with time lines beyond the Blight. BI-3 is Bayard's home world, where the technology never developed. The raids are coming from BI-2, a chaotic world where Imperial Germany won the First World War but failed to consolidate its victory, with a chaotic and highly destructive war continuing to sweep the planet for generations. This world, which was not believed to have the Maxoni-Cocini drive until it became the origin of increasingly destructive raids, is currently ruled by a dictator, who happens to be an analogue of... Brion Bayard.

Bayard undergoes extensive training to substitute for his double, presumably after killing him, and take over the other government, shutting off the raids. The plan falls through almost as soon as he arrives in the new world. For some reason, almost nobody believes in his impersonation. The reason becomes apparent when he meets the other Bayard, who had lost both legs in a battle years before, but who has concealed that fact from the public.

However, this other Bayard is not the evil dictator he is portrayed to be. He greets his double as a brother, and tells him how, after being a military officer dedicated to saving the soldiers under his command, he became a dictator after the government he served disintegrated, and undertook an effort to save what was left of shattered world. He is based in Algiers, which was less damaged than other parts of the world, and used the remnants of the former French Colonial Government as the nucleus of his fledgling World Government. He knows nothing of the raids on the Imperium. The two Bayards talk over a gourmet meal and discover they have much in common, including similar histories.

Bayard the dictator is abruptly assassinated by the real conspirators, who are working for power-hungry factions in the Imperium itself, using stolen technology. Bayard himself is scheduled for a showy execution, after suitable amputation surgery, to allow the conspiracy to consolidate its hold on their world by publicly eliminating the dictator. Eventually he is able to escape back to the Imperium and expose the conspirators. Offered a chance to return to his Earth, or become a high-ranking Imperium officer, he looks at the noble lady who has become so important to him, and declares, "Home is where the heart is."

4
  • 5
    No "could be" this is certainly correct. The book was the subject of another question, but a totally different aspect of the plot. I'm not sure if that would count as a duplicate. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/254977/… Text of the novel available on Gutenberg. gutenberg.org/files/65792/65792-0.txt
    – Pete
    Jul 5, 2022 at 1:46
  • 4
    @Pete If answer is correct, then it is a dup. We will link both answers for housekeeping. Jul 5, 2022 at 7:26
  • 3
    Even just reading the question title, I immediately knew that this was the correct answer. Jul 5, 2022 at 12:47
  • 1
    @Pete - It appears to be site policy that if 2 identification questions resolve to the same book, they are dups (no matter how different otherwise).
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 6, 2022 at 18:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.