The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The concepts of multiple lives and alternate universes make up the bulk of Matt Haig’s newest book, The Midnight Library. Given the current state of the world, I found the concept of an alternate universe to be refreshing even though I’m still not certain if that is something that I would want. Haig does an excellent job of discussing the morality of switching universes versus keeping your root life, a philosophical conundrum that most people do not think about on a daily basis.

Nora Seed wants to die. That is how this novel begins. Nothing in her life is going her way. She has lost her job, her pet, her best friend, and her brother. Her existing relationships are on the verge of disaster and Nora is struggling to find the will to live. She doesn’t see the point in living anymore and decides to kill herself.

Then she wakes up. Instead of ending up in an afterlife, Nora finds herself in a middle ground: a library. In fact, she is in the Midnight Library. Walking inside, Nora discovers that the library is full to the brim with books and the dutiful librarian in charge is the librarian from her early school days, Mrs. Elm. Confused and unsure what to do next. Nora turns to Mrs. Elm for help. Mrs. Elm explains to Nora that in fact this library is where people go when they are stuck between life and death. The library appears to people in many different ways, but the contents stay the same: every book that Nora sees is a different version of her own life, including her original life aka her root life. The millions of decisions that Nora choose during her life, and the subsequent decisions she said no to, all live within this library. Most importantly, Nora has the ability to choose to live any life that she wants to now, with restrictions and strings attached of course.

Overwhelmed with this knowledge, Nora has no idea where to begin. She is wracked with regret about what happened, and didn’t happen, in her root life. Mrs. Elm suggests she learn more about her regrets, sending Nora down a journey of self-discovery through a multitude of parallel universes that all have the power to change Nora’s perspective of her root life. As Nora tries on life and life, she slowly realizes that she’s never truly happy in any of these alternate lives either. This causes her to panic and wonder if she will be stuck in the Midnight Library forever. Nora must decide what she truly wants out of life and try to overcome the crushing regret that threatens to destroy her. As Nora goes on this journey, Mrs. Elm is right by her side, guiding her to what she truly desires even if Nora has no idea what that is.

If you’re looking for an escape, I recommend this book. If you’re looking to read about life struggles, alternate histories, parallel universes, or if you just want to pick up book about someone who is struggling to find their way like most of us are, this book is for you. It turned out in a way that I wasn’t expecting and I can’t wait to talk about it with you.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Great Podcasts: Fake News (in a good way!)

I’m back with another set of podcasts to highlight! Today’s two are a unique type: structured like a news or interview show, but set in fictional places, sharing fictional news. Hijinks and hilarity ensue, providing a welcome respite from real news and interview shows, which for me are almost universally exhausting. Again, as a disclaimer, I’m nowhere near caught up with either of these podcasts, so I can’t vouch for their entire content. As always, share your tips and recommendations in the comments! These podcasts are also available through Spotify, their websites, and other podcasting platforms like iTunes.

Welcome to Night Vale

This is a quite famous podcast in some circles, so you may well have already heard of it. If you’re not familiar, it’s structured as a local radio news program broadcast in the fictional (hopefully) town of Night Vale. The show reports strange happenings including strange creatures, ominous surveillance, and bizarre happenings with deadpan delivery, because in Night Vale, the odd and terrifying is also the everyday and normal. This makes for quite a bit of dry, tongue-in-cheek humor which may not be for everyone, but can be delightful.

Hello From the Magic Tavern

I discovered this podcast by accident a few years ago, and the main reason I stopped listening to it on any kind of consistent basis was because it always made me laugh out loud in the public places where I listened to it. This podcast’s structure is fairly typical for the medium: a host interviews a series of guests, hearing their stories and getting their take on current events. However, it’s set in the magical land of Foon, where the host ended up after falling through a portal behind Burger King. The improv comedy is often inappropriate but it’s always hilarious.

Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted by Jason Latour

spider-gwenSo if you’re not aware, a major event has unfolded in the Marvel Universe resulting in the Spider-Verse, the biggest Spider-event in history. In Spider-Verse, this November 2014 debut event began with Morlun announcing the Great Hunt, where he and his family would hunt down and kill every Spider-totem/Spider-creature in the Multiverse. As numerous Spider-themed superheroes were being killed, they realized that they needed to band together, so Spider-Man decided to create a team to help fight against all of the villains. This event launched multiple storylines with villains across the different universes launching their own nefarious plans to take down the different Spider-heroes in their own specific universes.

All of this background information leads to Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted. In an alternate universe, Earth-65 to be exact, Gwen Stacy is alive, having never been thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin. In Earth-65, it isn’t Peter Parker that is bitten by the radioactive spider, it is in fact Gwen Stacy, who then becomes Spider-Gwen, also known as Spider-Woman.

Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted focuses on the life of Gwen Stacy after the death of Peter Parker. Gwen is wrestling with Peter’s death for two reasons: 1) he died in her arms and 2) everyone is blaming Spider-Gwen for his death when in reality, it wasn’t her fault at all. In this universe, Gwen is in a band called the Mary Janes, and shortly after becoming Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker experiments and in trying to become more like Gwen, he becomes the Lizard, which ultimately leads to his death. A man-hunt begins with everyone looking for Spider-Gwen and J Jonah Jameson leading a giant smear campaign against her in the papers and with Gwen’s own father, Captain George Stacy, leading the hunt to capture Gwen.

This first volume is especially intriguing to read because in addition to all of the superhero problems Gwen is facing, she is also dealing with the drama of being in an all-girl rock band and trying to find a balance between her personal and private lives. I highly recommend you check out this graphic novel because it will go more in-depth into Gwen’s world and will allow you to compare the “normal” Spider-man universe with the universe where Gwen has the spider powers.