World Revolver by Gina Ranalli
“What is reality?” is my favorite question in literature and the premise of much of my writing. Gina Ranalli’s short novel World Revolver offers a unique perspective on this mind-bending question.
The book opens with a manifesto on the environment and the sustainability of the planet. While this could easily become heavy-handed, Ranalli instead makes a moving and inspiring case. As the story continues, you’ll see the importance of these words.
Set in the bleak future of 2036, in a world destroyed by humanity’s dereliction of the environment, we follow the story of Jeff Eon, a junkie who’s tried everything. So when he is offered a mysterious drug called “Satellite” for free, he takes up the offer without knowing the who’s, what’s, and why’s.
But these trips (known as spins) are not your usual high. Jeff finds himself inhabiting different lives with each hit: a rock star, a robber turned murderer, a man who dances in a rat costume on street corners. He soon discovers this is not fantasy: these are alternate dimensions, alternate versions of himself, and potentially a way to save his dying world.
The book starts with a relatively straightforward premise and spirals into a kaleidoscopic experience full of brilliant sci-fi. Though less bizarre than most books I review here, it possesses a weirdness that scratches that itch, and only grows as the novel progresses.
Ranalli has streamlined this novel. Never once did it drag nor did a part feel unnecessary. She accomplished this without sounding terse or minimalistic. At the same time, the world is startlingly palpable—despite its futuristic setting. The scene in which a character realizes he is a murderer, what it truly means to take a life, chilled me to the bone.
First person point-of-view can be abused, but works brilliantly in World Revolver, creating a fine line between the reader and the consciousness of the main character, as he travels from dimension to dimension, from life to life—as if we are spinning with him.
Though a clever and unique concept, I felt it was masked with all too familiar tropes: from the leather-clad femme fatale to the secret organization using code names from Greek mythology. Indeed, its similarities with the Matrix combined with several underdeveloped characters took away some of my enjoyment.
In each spin, Jeff has a different life, a different personality, different morals, but deep down remains the same Jeff, showing us just how much our experiences define us. It struck a personal chord, as I imagine it would in others. For who hasn’t wondered about that one small thing that, if changed, would drastically alter their life. Ultimately, World Revolver shows us that we can change the world and how much our actions mean, even the little ones.