The multiverse is a weird and wonderful concept. It’s actually several concepts stacked on top of one another wearing a trenchcoat. In One Verse Multi, Sander Santiago plays with some of those concepts to create a universe-hopping mystery involving polyamorous love interests, evil corporate aspirations, and dramatic confrontations. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, and I don’t think I could have predicted what I got. I wish I had loved this book more, because it has so much to recommend it!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for the eARC!
Martin Logan King works for the Multi-verse Protection Corporation (MVP). Formerly a rift-closure tech, Martin has now joined a new research team formed by MVP to investigate a unique event. The team discovers in the course of their investigation that not all is as it seems at MVP, that the founders are up to some shady shit, and Martin in particular takes it upon himself to investigate further and take action. The fate of the entire multiverse hangs in the balance, but can Martin save it without sacrificing the two men he loves?
Let’s talk about representation! One reason I wanted to love this book more than I did is because of how cleverly Santiago works in diverse representation. Santiago himself is a queer, trans BIPOC writer, and so he writes Martin’s character with a very authentic voice: Martin is a Black, gay trans man, and a significant part of the book is his self-discovery of polyamorous attraction as well. To be clear, I’m not praising One Verse Multi for the way it checks a lot of boxes—that’s not what matters to me when it comes to representation. It’s the quality that matters here, but I also wanted to remark upon the quantity of identities in play because intersections matter too. It matters that Martin is Black and trans, that he’s gay and polyamorous, etc. We can’t separate any one of these identities from the others.
In general, I really liked Martin. I liked his straightforward attitude and bravery. He’s heroic but not in a bombastic sense; occasionally he overreaches (and regrets it), but in general he has a combination of charisma and cunning that gets him through. I like that he took the fight to the enemy, for reasons I will discuss below. This, combined with all his identities, is why we need more protagonists like this!
In addition to Martin, there’s a non-binary characters and several other queer characters of various ethnicities. But perhaps even better than that is the supportive nature of the worldbuilding. Martin’s colleagues (aside from the bad guys) are endlessly supportive. Even when they disagree with him and argue, they always give him a chance to explain. Even the bad guys respect his identities; his queerness is never a source of jokes, slurs, insults, etc. It’s never up for comment. In this respect, One Verse Multi feels a lot like Star Trek: The Next Generation: the team is just vibing, and they don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they will trust each other’s judgment and listen.
It’s so fucking wholesome and I love it.
As you might know, I’m not a huge fan of romance, so I tend not to enjoy or comment on those subplots. For what it’s worth, I didn’t mind the romantic subplot here. I liked that it was polyamorous instead of a love triangle, and that it develops in a slow-burn-to-sudden-simmer kind of way. Santiago carefully hangs a lampshade on the stalker-like nature of Martin’s initial observations of Titus. Honestly, Titus and Lucas both seem like great guys, and I wish everyone all the best.
So the characters in this books are fantastic and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the plot. This was where One Verse Multi nearly lost me: it drags. A lot. I kept looking at the percentage read in my Kindle, wondering why the story was advancing so slowly. There is no sense of urgency to the pacing for the first part of the book. Once we get a better sense of who the antagonists are, that does change—and to be fair, there are certainly some dramatic and tense moments. Once Santiago gets to the action, he’s great at writing it. It just takes forever to get there!
Similarly, the actual nature of the mystery was ho-hum to me. It boils down to predictable corporate greed, just enhanced with access to a multiverse. I don’t require that a mystery be totally unpredictable to me, but I do like to be a little surprised by the outcomes, and I didn’t get that here.
So my overall verdict? One Verse Multi is one of the most wholesome and satisfying books I have read in a long time when it comes to the characters and romance. On this strength alone I would recommend it if that is what you are after. On the other hand, if you’re coming to this for an intense mystery, I’m less certain you’ll be satisfied.