Hugo reading 2018: And then there were (N-One), by Sarah Pinsker

And Then There Were (N-One), by Sarah Pinsker, was clever and great fun and just a little unsettling. Sarah Pinsker receives an invitation from an alternate universe version of herself to attend a conference – SarahCon – at which all the other attendees are Sarah Pinskers from different universes. And then a Sarah Pinsker dies under suspicious circumstances and so Sarah Pinsker, who is an insurance investigator and the closest thing they have to a detective, is asked to try to find out what happened.

This is a fascinating exploration of the different choices people make through life, and their consequences. Some of the Sarah Pinskers are from very closely related strands, others from remote ones – what sent them there? Some of them are still with university girlfriends, others are single or have new partners, one of them invented the Transdimensional Portal, but four others very nearly did and were just not as fast.

I guessed one part of the murder mystery, but not the other part, and the resolution – or is it resolved? Can anything in a multiverse where every choice you make spawns a new universe ever be resolved? – was very satisfying. The motive for the murder was unexpected and clever and logical and in keeping with the Sarah who did it – and it made you wonder what else might happen at the end of the conference, when it was time for everyone to leave.
It’s an unsettling story to read, if you have ever questioned any of your own life decisions. Adding to the unsettlement is the fact that Sarah Pinsker is also the name of the author, and I can’t help wondering how autobiographical it is – it almost seems like a waste if it isn’t, but if it is, how very odd for her friends and acquaintances to read it.
This is a great start to the novella section. I think it’s going to place high on my ballot.

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