Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
‘Even when there’d been a whole universe to explore, Cloud Lake and Tommy had been my everything.
“So that’s it?” I said. “I’m just supposed to go on living my life no matter how much the universe takes from me or how small it gets?”
Dr. Sayegh nodded. “It’s what the rest of us do, Ozzie.”
Ozzie’s boyfriend, Tommy, has vanished. Poof. Gone. But not just from their hometown, Cloud Lake. Tommy has vanished from the memories of everyone who knew him, and Ozzie is the only one who knows something has changed.
Oh, also the universe is shrinking. No one else has any idea that that’s happening, either.
I wasn’t sure what to make of At the Edge of the Universe to start with. A few bloggers I follow are huge fans of Shaun David Hutchinson, so when I saw the book pop up on Riveted Lit’s Free Reads I couldn’t resist giving it a go, but I almost abandoned it within the first few chapters because it’s just weird.
For the majority of the book, it’s impossible to tell whether Tommy is a figment of Ozzie’s imagination. I wondered whether he may have been suffering from a mental disorder causing him to personify his anxieties about the future, but the next thing the sun disappeared and no one would listen to Ozzie, let alone humour him by explaining how they thought daylight worked.
From that point on, I was hooked. I read the rest of the novel in one sitting, a direct contrast from the slow and steady pace at which I read the first half.
It helps that the cast of characters are all so intriguing. There’s Lua, a rock star whose gender identity is in flux; Dustin, the class valedictorian who has no choice but to apply for local colleges over Ivy League schools; and Calvin, Ozzie’s new physics partner who has had an unexplained and utterly drastic personality change over the summer.
Ozzie himself deserves an award for being one of the most sarcastic characters I’ve ever read: despite going through some seriously tough stuff, he retains a wry sense of humour that had me snorting through my nose at multiple moments.
I’ll be honest, although I grasped the overarching moral of the story – that losing yourself in a relationship at a young age isn’t worth it, because there’s a whole world out there to explore – I’m pretty sure there’s loads of important allegories that have completely gone over my head. This is a book filled with philosophical aspects, but I was so focused on the mystery of Tommy’s disappearance that I missed a lot of the nuance in this story.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this book finds itself on required reading lists within the next ten years, as it makes you ask yourself a lot of tough questions.
I’m still wondering whether I would be as strong-minded as Ozzie, refusing to accept that Tommy wasn’t real despite hearing it repeatedly asserted by everyone around him. How do you think you’d respond?