Famous Men Who Never Lived

Tin House. Mar. 2019. 324p. ISBN 9781947793248. $22.95. SF
DEBUT Hel and Vikram are just two of 156,000 refugees living in New York who arrived not from another country, but an alternate earth. Hel, unwilling to grow attached to anything in her new world, becomes obsessed with the divergence of her earth and ours and hopes to found a museum dedicated to her fellow UDPs (Universally Displaced Persons). The centerpiece of her fixation is a book Vikram brought with him called The Pyronauts, by an author with a cult following in Hel's world but who died as a child in ours. When the work, a symbol of everything lost to Hel, is presumed stolen, our prickly protagonist, tortured by what she left behind, is determined to get it back.
VERDICT The plight of refugees gets a sf twist in this enjoyable debut from award-winning short story writer Chess. While the side plots could have been tightened, those looking for character-driven, science-light sf should give this a try.
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