"There have been many tales of parallel worlds, but few have this much heart, imagination, and good old-fashioned storytelling fun." - Steve Pick, radio host and author
What if there were an alternate universe hidden next to ours? What if you found a way to go there?
Billy Boustany stumbles upon the ability to slip in and out of a surprising new version of his sleepy midwestern city. He discovers a teeming metropolis with iridescent skyscrapers, wild celebrations, and throngs of tourists from all over the world. This adventure is most fun he's had in years. Then it turns into an obsession that upends his life, his family, and everything he knows.
Billy questions his sanity as he struggles to make sense of his magical experience. Though he fears screwing up his adventure, he lets his college student daughter in on the secret. Together, they explore further into this odd world until they reach the ultimate destination, a magnificent city of Native Americans that has sprung up at an ancient site.
Billy also encounters a formidable enemy—the Knights, a secret society with a mission to keep people like him out of their world. They warn him to stay away—or else.
The story of another accidental traveler, a financial genius who found his way into the same city in the 1920s, reveals the alternate history of this amazing world.
What readers are saying: “Great characters and a sly sense of humor” – Kathy “Original, vivid, exciting, and fun” – Tom “Cinematic, imaginative, well-paced, and suspenseful” – Patty “A wild ride through two simultaneous worlds. It's fast-paced, well written, and highly creative.” – Dina “A tale spun with skill and consummate story telling.” – Cher “Twists your understanding of how the world can work. Quite delightful.” – Robert “Be prepared to miss sleep and a meal or two once you begin reading this book.” – Christopher
In my career, I have made documentary films and produced television shows. I work as an instructional design consultant. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent most of my life there. I have always been fascinated by the older parts of the city and their echoes of a lost world. A few years ago, my wife and I moved to Carpinteria, California. I've always wanted to live by the ocean. Still, the neighborhoods and streets of St. Louis are etched deep into my brain.
I did not expect much from this book but was pleasantly surprised. The author is not as polished of an author as say a John Scalzi, Joe Haldeman, Blake Crouch or Max Barry but fans of those authors would enjoy this book. I know this because those are some of my favorite authors and this story idea was something that was up there with them. The prose might not be as buttery smooth and its a little clunky in a couple of places but the story is really good. The prose got better as the book went on too. Either that or I just got more used to it. Its not Elmore Leonard but its not terrible either.
This is a multiverse book, its set in a few different time periods all in St Louis and an Alternate St. Louis. I have not spent a ton of time in St. Louis, I have been there quite a few times but do not know my way around by any stretch and its possible that I would have gotten even more out of the book had I been more familiar with the city I do not know. You certainly do not need to know the city to enjoy this book. It also had some really great concepts in it. I love it when an author makes you think about more than just the concept of the story itself but how the mechanics of the concept could work and then in the alternate universe has some interesting ideas of technology that you could almost see being a real thing. So bravo for that. I really enjoyed that part of the story.
I also loved how the cities got more and more different as time went on and he kept track of it. I thought there was a continuity error but then I realized it was in a much earlier time when more overlap would have been likely. So even an alternate path that helped make it different in a couple of areas fit with the "rules" of the book. I have seen more seasoned authors mix that up.
I feel like I have given too much of the book away as it is and I hate spoilers so I am going to shut up here. But if you like multiverse books, then give this a read. After reading Dark Matter I started actively searching them out and this is one of the better ones I have found.
To the author Eric Von Schrader if you read your reviews I just have this to say. more please! #multiverse
This book gets right into it. I was instantly captivated. I read it over two days and found myself desperately wanting to savor the last pages. Luckily it's book 1 of 3. If parallel realities is of interest to you as it is to me then you will definitely want to give this book a read.
This was an interesting story, about St. Louis. Not just St. Louis as we know it, but another St. Louis also. The two cities are in the same place but in different dimensions. The other St. Louis is strangely similar, yet vastly different. Around the 1920s an earthquake destroyed the downtown. A unique idea emerged as a way to rebuild. Everyone in the city paid to help the rebuilding, and become part owners of the city. The result was unity among the races, a beautifully organized city with plenty of trees, a unique cooling/warming system, and thriving international business. Cahokia across the river was a thriving Indian community. A few people are able to travel between the two cities, but not without problems. Alternate St. Louis doesn't want people from our St. Louis visiting, fearing too much interaction between them. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fun reading about places I am familiar with and envisioning what the "other" St. Louis would be like. Though sometimes the writing was a little stilted, it was definitely fun to read.
This was a little confusing to start til all the threads converged midway through. Parallel cities, people connected all twisting together for a great narrative Each story alone would have been enough but twisting them all together gave addition depth. Thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Eric von Schrader’s novel combines an engaging plot with insightful commentary on 21st century life in his home town of St. Louis. Just as Jonathan Swift imagined faraway places for his commentary in Gulliver’s Travels; and George Orwell imagined a dystopic future in 1984, von Schrader imagines an alternative version of St. Louis superimposed on the current footprint of the City. Instead of looking to the future, like Orwell, or to unexplored parts of the globe, like Swift, von Schrader looks slightly over 100 years back to the time when the history of his imagined St. Louis diverged from that of the current St. Louis. His characters do not travel in time, but rather between the two universes that simultaneously coexist in the same City. His characters are well developed. The story kept me up late at night reading to learn how it ends. And his insights into the strengths, failings and potential of St. Louis are thought provoking and interesting.
Billy Boustany, heir to Duke’s Digital stores, a St. Louis electronics retail chain founded by his charismatic, eccentric, and well-known TV celebrity father, “Big Hearted Bill,” wakes up one day to find himself on the losing end of a changing world. His customers are picking his brain for the best electronics, then making their purchases online. His stores are going out of business. To gather himself, Billy decides to visit his childhood home in a historic St. Louis neighborhood. Walking the familiar streets, he pauses, experiences a strange sensation, and then suddenly finds himself standing in a St. Louis he doesn’t know or understand. He has accidentally stepped into a parallel universe. Thus, begins Billy’s amazing journey into what he calls “HD St. Louis,” a more colorful, big screen, high definition St. Louis, a city that seems to shine in ways his old St. Louis had failed or become obsolete. During his first entry, Billy meets interesting people, tastes food he’s never tasted before, experiences exciting unfamiliar St. Louis traditions, and is dazzled by a modern downtown with rapid transit and high-rise buildings that seem to glow. He makes friends. And he begins obsessing about how he can spend more time there and less time trying to save his failing stores. How Billy manages his life moving between St. Louis and HD St. Louis is the story in Eric von Schrader’s debut novel, A Universe Less Traveled. Whether you are a St. Louisan or not, this book is a thrilling escape into a world that’s both the same and different. A native St. Louisan, Eric has an intimate lifelong relationship with the city, its neighborhoods, traditions, history, and flaws. His writing is precise and descriptive producing an interesting “what if” story about a city that somehow mysteriously split into two identical cities in 1904, a point after which each went its separate way. For example, HD St. Louis has no Interstate highways running through it, which means the city was never divided. There is no Gateway Arch, but instead a riverfront alive with terraced high-rise buildings, shops, and restaurants. HD St. Louis is a city absent of racism. There is no North or South divide. As a native St. Louisan myself, I found von Schrader’s HD St. Louis fascinating. Like Billy, I couldn’t wait to get back to discover more. I found myself wishing that I, too, could somehow discover a way to pierce the thin veil between our world and von Schrader’s and experience for myself what St. Louis might have been. Von Schrader’s ideas are intriguing because they are grounded in an accurate knowledge of science, culture, and history. Once known as “brick city,” St. Louis was once a city of clay mines producing some 20 million bricks a year. In von Schrader’s novel, sleek modern high-rise buildings are made of bricks that actually glow because they are gathering and saving energy from the sun. Recently, after von Schrader’s novel was published, chemists at Washington University in St. Louis announced a discovery that allows them to make or modify “smart bricks” that can store energy. This is how close von Schrader’s imaginary St. Louis sometimes comes to what could have been St. Louis today or might be St. Louis in the future. How Billy navigates his way through the two worlds is a masterpiece of plotting. Billy eventually brings his wife and young adult daughter across the veil and discovers a darker side to HD St. Louis. The Knights of Carnelian, loosely based on St. Louis’s Veiled Prophet organization, a powerful group of civic leaders, discovers the trespass and takes increasingly aggressive measures to expel Billy and his family. His daughter falls in love with a man from Cahokia, the historic site of an ancient civilization outside today’s St. Louis but a thriving community of Native Americans in von Schrader’s story. Things get increasingly messy and complicated for the Boustanys, and intriguing for us. A Universe Less Traveled draws you into a vivid world where people of all colors and backgrounds live in harmony, a world devoid of infectious diseases, nasty politics, economic woes, and climate change. And at a time like this, what could be better than that? Charles Claggett Author, Max Starkloff and the Fight for Disability Rights
I'll admit to a soft spot for parallel universe stories. I love them. A Universe Less Travelled delivered a world that invites you in and makes you want to stay. I've never been to St.Louis, but it didn't matter; every bit of the city -and its twin- was vividly described and easily pictured. It had utopia, dystopia, going back and forth in time, love and family.
I like books with several characters and PoVs and there were quite a few in this story. Billy was sweet and relatable, flawed and imperfect. His discovery of the parallel city was probably my favourite part given how naturalistic it felt. Meredith, on the other hand, felt a bit immature to me, she was too extreme in all her reactions and I couldn't like her for it. I have to say that the family aspect made it unique, as I very rarely find father-daughter plots that I like.
The way the scientific theories behind these cities divergence is explained was so interesting, and used great metaphors. the story also felt different from other parallel universe ones given that Billy is just a regular Joe, using this other city as a tourist destination.
All in all this book is such an easy and fast read for whoever needs a bit of a break from reality. I loved it and it was over way too soon.
*I received a complimentary copy for review from Voracious Readers*
I'm a sucker for a good parallel universe story; bonus points if it has a well-written star-crossed lovers angle. This novel covers all the bases: utopia, dystopia, secret societies, history, scientific advances, mysterious sisters who finish each other's sentences. But A Universe Less Traveled somehow manages to not cross the line into cliche.
Although I'll admit I didn't quite like him at first, I warmed up to Billy Boustany as he explored and stumbled and made unlikely friends. He didn't dig deeply into the mystery of the world he found, instead spending most of his time as a tourist. I enjoyed that the main character was an "everyman," rather than a scientist or treasure hunter or secret agent sent on reconnaissance. It made the story feel more ethereal and grounded simultaneously. The balance of secondary characters who were more scientific (or more shady) rounded out the details and showed the divergence of our worlds over the decades.
This is a lovely, leisurely read for summer. I wish I could taste the taffy, get swept up in the market, and watch the fountains on a hot day. Instead I'll just tuck A Universe Less Traveled onto my digital bookshelf and dive into it any time I want a fleeting escape.
The story starts right off with amusing correspondence about mistaken identity in the early twentieth century. Then readers are brought to the year 2010 with Billy, the protagonist, who owns an electronics store. Little details bring his story and his world to life, and there are lot of them.
From Billy’s point of view, strange things are happening, places he clearly remembered are disappearing. How could that be?
We’re also brought into the world of Jim Hines, during the Crash before the Great Depression. However, after he falls off a building and then later wakes up from a coma, he notices that his world is…different. This is a second chance for him, but there is a downside to this changed history. He comes up with a brilliant idea to save the day, which in turn drastically changes the future.
The worlds of these two men are linked in an interesting way. John is Billy’s employee, and his story is just as interesting. There is a great subplot concerning Native Americans, and this is interwoven well with the story. The action picks up, and the characters experience all kinds of unknowns. How will they get out of their tricky situation? This is a fun story, a great way to escape and fire up the imagination.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was an enjoyable read that was hard to put down once it got going. I felt like this book had a slow start to get into the groove of the main story; however, once it did, the story was unique and interesting. I didn't mind the details that slowed the beginning because the story circles back to that information later in the story.
The concept of slightly overlapping universes and the ability for certain individuals to cross the divide to the other version of St. Louis is interesting. While the idea of different universes and crossing between them isn't new to the world of sci-fi, I feel like this is a really unique take on the idea. It felt fresh and interesting to have it limited to a single city. The idea of a regular person being able to traverse the divide was nice rather than special agents or people with super powers. The differences between the cities are well described and the world building is strong. The characters are interesting and the main protagonist is given a solid background to make you hope for a good outcome for him. You feel the weight of St. Louis SD and the freedom of St. Louis HD.
If you're a fan of light sci-fi (not heavily technical), this is a great one to give a try.
If you see this book, you'll know I already read it, since there's a blurb on the back cover written by me raving about how good it is. But I wanted to read it again in an actual print copy, and experience once again this enjoyable this tale of parallel world versions of St. Louis. If you're a native of my town, or even just somebody who's been here for a while at some point, you'll find tons of reference points to make you smile. The Veiled Prophet organization has its name changed, and there is a character who will remind you of a man who had a New Deal, where he and Joe Farhatt were only at. But beyond that, first time novelist Von Schrader spins a great yarn, jumping around in time across two universes and slowly accumulating details of a St. Louis that went in an opposite direction of the one in which I live. Despite all the wonders and marvels of this other St. Louis, it isn't actually perfect. Authoritarians gonna authoritate. This is a fun book, and if somebody in Hollywood is smart, it should be a fun movie once movies become a thing again.
I received a free copy from voracious readers only for an honest review.
What an interesting concept. Two cities existing in the same time and space but completely different.
I liked the way the chapters were dated so you could see the development of the second city. The characters were neatly interwoven but I felt some characters could have been developed a bit more, ( unless there's a second book where we find out more).
An enjoyable but of escapism in the crazy times we're currently living in.
Just what I needed now. This imaginative novel is a clever mix of adventure, history and sci-fi world-building. It's well written with engaging and realistic characters - one of which is the city of St Louis - a place I've never visited, but enjoyed learning about. I had no idea where the twists and turns of the story would lead, but loved the quirky ending.
Kick back and let this book take you on an adventure away from your everyday reality.
This is my first parallel universe novel. Found it entertaining. I grew up in Kansas and St. Louis was in our backyard. Thought it was well written with compelling characters--Billy became more likable as the story unfolded. I appreciated the way Eric developed the multiple story lines. Overall it was a fun read.
A really enthralling story that combines a down to earth St. Louis with time travel and science fiction. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but makes some serious points. Great characters and sly sense of humor. Read it.
"It's a page-turner for everyone, with one surprising event and interesting character after another. I didn't stop reading until I hit the last page at 2 a.m. History and architecture buffs will love the story's details and layers. St. Louis locals and visitors will want to trek the routes to those "special spots" themselves. Read the book and meet Billy, Meredith, Diyami and the rest. Then, get in line for a walking tour -- and Book Two!" JC
This is great read though takes a bit to get into it. It is well worth it once you begin to know the characters. Two St Louis’ s coexist and there is a few commonalities to them but also a lot of differences. The people who can travel between the two cities are an interesting bunch.
Delightful book that looks at the "what ifs" for St Louis. I thoroughly enjoyed the creative inventions in the parallel universe - bricks that generate electricity, street lighting that floats among the trees, and a thriving Cahokia.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A Universe Less Traveled was great fun to read. It started a bit slow, but picked up soon enough and was a delightful adventure into Saint Louis as it is: kind of sad in many ways, and what might have been....which was an idealist's dream of joy and enlightenment. I really appreciated the diversity, the general decency, the intelligent creativity of plot and characters and the overall light-heartedness of this book. The fondness for historic Saint Louis was heartfelt and is appreciated by one who still lives here. I highly recommend it to anyone.
My dad grew up in the StL metro (MO and IL) and the vast majority of his family still lives and works there. I kept Google Mapping various streets to check out where my cousins hang out!
The juxtaposing worlds reminded me of Piers Anthony’s ‘Blue Adept’ series from way back in the day. Very nostalgic for me and also educational about StL history & local geography (my uncle once took me to Cahokia).
There’s also a lesson about the dangers of greed, cutting corners, and forcing history.
We’ll find out how that works out regarding “grains of paradise” in ‘A Universe Disrupted’.
"Like most St. Louisans, Billy spent little time downtown. He attended baseball and hockey games, of course, and he brought out-of-town visitors to see the Arch. That was about it. When he first took over the store, he bankers and lawyers, were mostly downtown, but they had long since moved to the suburbs, just as his business had."
I live in St. Louis so this book got on my radar because of the location, and I'm not sure I would have found or read it otherwise. And who isn't entranced by alternate worlds? In this version of St. Louis there exists the version that we know today (or as it existed roughly in 2010) and it overlays an alternate St. Louis that looks completely different, spurred in part by different choices the city makes after an earthquake. Parts of this were fun because I was so familiar with the locations he described, like taking a walk in Tower Grove Park.
But there's a second part of this book, which I was afraid would be more explicit, and thankfully it's really not. But it's still there. I think the best way to illustrate the point is with a quote from another book, How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood: "The ignorance of the lives of others is allows gentrification to happen. Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts points out in her book Harlem is Nowhere that whenever a neighborhood gentrifies, you hear white people and the media using phrases such as 'People are starting to move to that neighborhood,' or 'No one used to go there, but that's changing.' The implication is that before these places gentrified, no one lived there, or at least no one of importance. This is what is happening in New Orleans and every other gentrifying city. If you ignore the destruction of the lives of the people who's always mattered the least, things are going great. If you acknowledge that their lives exist and that they matter, then it becomes immediately obvious something is terribly wrong. So what does it mean that we are not only ignoring these people but increasingly erasing their narratives in the name of progress?"
Look at the top quote from the book again, do you see it? "Like most St. Louisans," means of course, most white St. Louisans, and papers over the people who do spend a lot of time downtown. Mainly of course, the people of color who live in the city in the places the white St. Louisans discarded for the suburbs. It also does the neat trick of making it seem like something that just happened.
I think von Schrader tries to get around this by making the better St. Louis the version where the citizens are equal and structural racism seems less present. While of course, ignoring that the actual St. Louis was shaped by decisions that put racism, growth and development over the nurture of the city and its infrastructure. As though the move to the suburbs was "nothing personal folks," and not a political decision.
And in the end, Billy and his family choose our St. Louis but there doesn't seem to be any joy in it. There isn't the moment where Dorothy wakes up and realizes that Kansas is better than Oz. There's some slight hope for the future, but it largely feels like they returned out of habit instead of celebration.
If you know St. Louis, love science fiction, or love alternate universe stories, "A Universe Less Traveled" is the book for you. If you love all of those things, you will love the book even more!
In the alternate St. Louis, events happened that turned the city into a social and economic world powerhouse. It would be a great place to live. The book follows one man who manages to cross over into that St. Louis and how that affects him, his family, and the other world. It contains MANY references to things and places in St. Louis that make it fun for a St. Louisan to read. The detail shouldn't be too distracting for those who don't know St. Louis.
It is one of the most fun books that I've read in a long time. Easy read. I am very stingy with my 5 star reviews, but I give this one 5 stars (out of 5). The e-book is only $3.99 from Amazon.
I shy away from science fiction because life in the real world so boggles the imagination that I needn't go hunting for literary trouble. Today's mess is monumentally confounding, and presents a reality even the finest science fiction practitioner might find difficult to conjure up.
However, Eric von Schrader's "A Universe Less Traveled, " in a less troubled, less frightening moment in recent world history, is reassuring in its way with its hope that goodness can prevail.
"Universe" Is a meticulous limn, a fascinating account of a young man's mysterious slipping into an alternative universe, seemingly utopian, and out of it, and into the dystopia he (and we) find ourselves in quotidianly. He is a St. Louisan, called Billy Boustany, and for a reader who always enjoys coming face to face with his hometown, Billy's meanderings are a pleasure. But the the universe less traveled, the recognizable but revived other world, and the "real" have their moments of peril. All this makes all this doubly interesting as we glide in and out of St. Louis known and unknown, populated by a cast of characters that include the famous (F.L. Wright) and the obnoxious -- Billy's mysterious boss.
This is Mr. von Schrader's first published novel, and deserves wide readership, especially in the Mound City and -- another mound city as well.
Robert W. Duffy occupiesing account of shades of darkness and light in macabre-feeling realit,
Received as a review copy from Booksirens, this is an honest review. A gorgeous written story that's thought provoking, Billy's life has gotten a whole more intriguing when he discovered he slip into new world and despite the thrill of it, it's taking a toll upon his family. The amazing city Billy discovered has its darker corners that makes this place interesting. When things became personal, Billy will go as he has to protect his daughter, challenging everything along the way. A wickedly smart novel you won't soon forget. Highly recommended.
Seldom does a book capture my attention in the first chapter, much less the first couple of pages. I am accustomed to having to endure a long introduction period before slowly finding my way into a story, but this wasn't the case with "A Universe Less Traveled". Beginning with the cryptic notes of a 1908 secret society brought me directly into the mystery of what would be a tale spun with skill and consummate story telling.
As an avid fan of Mark Twain I love the spinning of a good tale and this book certainly delivered. The mystery unwinds piece by piece as we enter the lives of the various characters and as new characters are introduced. We find ourselves navigating between two different worlds and across decades that bridge two centuries. Somehow von Schrader makes us comfortable as we jump decades and become familiar with both worlds.
The book can also be a traveler's guide to St. Louis and the near by Cahokia Mounds. If you are familiar with the city you'll never see it quite in the same way. It will forever become like a children's storybook with those clear overlay pages that change the picture from one reality to another. If you are visiting St. Louis for the first time you may well notice the city scenes before you take on a different landscape as you see von Schrader's alternative city superimposed on what lays before you.
So, whether a reader is looking for a mystery, an adventure, a fantasy tale or just for simply good story telling, I'd recommend entering the world of a "Universe Less Traveled".
First time reading a book by this writer. When I saw the Table of Contents, I was uncertain about the book. Chapter 1, I was still questioning my choice of reviewing it. By the end of Chapter 2, I was hooked! The alternate universe (if they could call it that) was fascinating. Easy to read, fun story. I was thrilled when we got to the part of the story about Cahokia. I am very familiar with the Cahokians due to Michael & Kathleen O'Neal Gear's "People of Cahokia" novels. Now I can't wait for the next book!
This is a delightful book to read, particularly if you're from St. Louis. Eric von Schrader offers up an enjoyable alternative to the challenges and uncertainties that plague many rust belt cities today. What if there was a place where there was little to no crime? What if there was a place where small businesses could grow and flourish? What if we could continually build on what’s good in our lives and never experience the downsides? What if life was a never-ending party? This book introduces you to just such a place.
Eric has done his homework and provided the reader with a vivid picture of St. Louis, past and present. He paints a city landscape that is highlighted in shades of gray and contrasts it to one that is bursting in color. On this whimsical journey into an alternate universe, the fact that there are so many similarities, yet distinctive differences, leaves you with thoughts of what could have been and what might be possible.
In these days of constant change and uncertainty, this book is a highly enjoyable read that will leave you with a smile on your face.
I loved this book. It's cinematic, imaginative, well-paced, and suspenseful. You'll meet some wonderful characters. I rooted for them as they led me through a series of adventures through different time periods and realities, and they've stayed with me long after I finished the book. This was a very satisfying read--humorous, inventive, and moving.
I'm not usually interested in traveling in a new universe. I have enough issues with the one I live in, and usually I expect another universe to be even worse. I loved traveling in "A Universe Less Traveled" though.
I know it's wrong, but I'm a bedtime reader. For the most part, I leave my recreational reading to my last hours of the day, when I'm flat on my back. This book drew me onto the couch, during the day, until I finished it, because I enjoyed it so much. For me to enjoy a novel, I need to chew on great prose. I need characters who are fleshed out fully over the course of the book. I need relationships between characters laid out in a way that makes sense. I don't always want something big and explosive to happen, but I need to find something happening somewhere, even if it's in the small details of daily life. If something big is happening, or a complex plot, I need it to all hang together, without any holes. Von Schrader provides all that in depth.
As a fellow native son of St. Louis, and being so familiar with the neighborhoods and history of that town, my memories were enriched by this imagined universe. I wished I could attend the street party described in the alternative universe. I so much wanted to meet some of the characters throughout the book. I wished I could experience the "what if" of the imagined development of Native American civilization in the Midwest.
I think anybody from St. Louis will get a huge kick out of this book. And anybody, anywhere would enjoy such a cleverly crafted book - well written, thoughtful, and full of dead on observations of this crazy universe we take to be ours.