In a fluke of cosmic timing, Tim Lebbon's alternate worlds epic comes swift on the heels of Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's similarly themed The Long Earth . But while that book had warmth and wit and wonder, Lebbon's hefty tome has a far darker purpose. It's the end of the world, baby.
Somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains resides Coldbrook – a research facility where scientists have found a way to break down the walls of reality and look onto another Earth. No one has stepped through yet, with the breach carefully observed for signs of life. And then a man from the other side breaks through. Unfortunately, this dude doesn't come bearing gifts. The only thing he's bringing to the party is a nasty virus that turns people into ravening zombies . There's a battle, people die, and the virus breaks out, while one of the scientists gets trapped on the other side...
Lebbon's prose is cold, lean and ruthlessly efficient. That can make Coldbrook a bit of a slog, at times. Sure, the end of the world is never gonna be the funniest of situations, but it also means that it takes a while to warm to the characters.
Where the book excels is in the scenes on the parallel world. There's a dislocating sense of the uncanny here - the differences subtle, but powerful. It's here, and in the book's smaller, scarier moments, rather than the widescreen scenes of apocalyptic carnage, where Coldbrook finds its true power.
Will Salmon twitter.com/evilrobotbill