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Book review: Max Barry's The 22 Murders of Madison May

A series of bubble universes; a page-turner that pops.
Book review: Max Barry's The 22 Murders of Madison May

We loved Max Barry's Lexicon, at our house. His insights into the way language can be used to manipulate and control became part of our lexicon, if you'll pardon the obvious phrasing; there was a day, for example, when I whispered to Larry "we've got to be like the last chapter of Lexicon" and he knew exactly what I meant.

I do not want to be like the last chapter of The 22 Murders of Madison May.

This is a story of parallel universes – which is no spoiler, I believe that detail is revealed in the flap copy – and a story of a man who has decided to travel from world to world, killing the woman he loves in every universe in which he believes she is not being her Best Self.

Also, he's being followed by the equivalent of Parallel Universe Cops (they're actually renegade physicists, or something like that) and an Everywoman who just happens to end up with a Parallel Universe Travel Device by mistake.

I preferred the universe in which you could control people by showing them specific combinations of words. (The world of Lexicon is, in more ways than one, parallel to ours.)

I also prefer the universe in which you actually can become your Best Self – because that's the big reveal, at the end of the book, that Madison May is never a better person and the man who tries to murder her is only ever doing it because he gets friendzoned, every single time – and was extremely disappointed to learn that, in the last chapter, none of our characters have actually changed.

Madison May is still an impulsive, untalented actress.

Our Everywoman is still living with the Everyboyfriend she's not quite sure about (reader, she's going to marry him), because trying to become better or find someone better would be like chasing a young woman through 22 consecutive bubble universes.

She literally says that, to the Parallel Universe Cop, before he sets off in search of the one universe where his wife is still alive.

I will never say that to Larry.