At the Edge of the Universe – Shaun David Hutchinson – Review
Shaun David Hutchinson’s books are going to be stories that have one thing going on the surface and another thing in the deeper story. At the Edge of the Universe is about moving on in life, not letting one soul or one event become the center of your universe. You have to see the world is larger than just you. Take one step beyond your personal circle and the world opens up.
Ozzie and Tommy have been best friends since they were young. They have been dating since 8th grade. One day Ozzie wakes up and Tommy has disappeared. No one remembers he existed at all, no one but Ozzie.
Ozzie is set on finding his lost boyfriend, desperate for him to not be truly forgotten. Though complications arise when he falls for his physics project partner, Calvin. Can he let Tommy go? What should he do about the universe that is literally shrinking around him? No one else notices Tommy’ disappearance or the shrinking universe. Does it matter in the end? Was Tommy even real at all?
The plot of the universe shrinking and Tommy not being remembered are secondary to the fact that Ozzie has had an issue seeing the world beyond himself. At first he seems selfish. HIs parents are divorcing and he keeps speaking about in terms of how it will effect him. His brother is leaving for the army and he again centers the issue on how it connects to him. Things at first surround him, the universe is about him.
As the universe begins to shrink, Ozzie begins to understand that he isn’t the only one in the world. Everyone has their own problems, some much serious than his own.
I really liked the way these two ideas were juxtaposed with each other. The universe is literally shrinking just as Ozzie is learning that the world is much bigger than he initially thought. Just as he is looking around, wanting to experience more he is losing it all. He learns quickly not to let life center on one thing and one thing only. Just as he is learning all of this he becomes the literal center of the universe and it is the last thing he wants.
Just as with we are the ants the side characters in this story are well developed. No one came off as flat. I would say that we are the ants does a bit better job of it but I did appreciate that we learn about everyone in this book and not just Ozzie, Tommy and Calvin. Also this book has a very diverse set of characters.
Lua, one of Ozzie’s best friends, is a genre fluid character. This is the first time I have ever read a book with this type of character and I loved the inclusion. I also like the explanation, it is simple and succinct. Lua tells her friends that the pronoun to use with them can be based off their clothing. If he is dressed in a more masculine type outfit than everyone can use “he,” pronouns. If she is dressed more traditionally feminine then everyone can use “she” pronouns. It was easy to follow, and understand.
I also loved how everyone reacted to them. I never felt like anyone was preaching about it to the reader. This was who Lua was. No one fought with them. There was a bit confusion from some of the more antagonist type characters but once we find out why, it all makes sense. I like the inclusion that felt natural. Lua wasn’t forced into the story to have representation, they were included because that is who this character was. I like this type of inclusion, when it just feels like the character is anyone else, nothing different or special but just a person.
Lua wasn’t the only character of diversity. One of Ozzie’s friends is described as asexual and Tommy is black. The story doesn’t focus on just one of these characters, but they are included to show the reader that the world around is much more diverse than you may think. I appreciate books like this because, especially now, we have to see how diverse and beautiful our world is.
By the end of the book I wasn’t sure if Tommy was real or if that really mattered. What mattered was if Ozzie could see that the universe is this larger thing and we have to find a way to balance ourselves in it. If you don’t find that balance you may end up losing yourself.
I enjoy Shaun David Hutchinson’s stories because they are not only diverse but deep. He uses surface level fantasy to delve into deeper issues and ways to see the world. He is able to explore difficult topics with making you feel bogged down or preached at. The reader is comfortable as they read, eager to see how things turn out. You feel connected to the characters no matter how different than you they may be.