Atticus Higginbottom, Tick to his friends, is a 13-year-old science geek who gets bullied at school, trips over his own feet, and plays champion-level chess. Few people would guess that such a boy would have the makings of a hero who might one day save the world. Somebody seems to have guessed, however. Somebody calling himself M.G. (short for Master George) begins sending Tick a series of clues, leading to an opportunity to save thousands of lives—but only if he has the courage to face danger and suffering, the cleverness to solve a series of puzzles, and the will to go through with an adventure fraught with spooky weirdness.
High school sophomore Joey Harker has such a poor sense of direction that he sometimes gets lost in his own house. One day, during a social studies exam in the form of a scavenger hunt around the downtown area, he walks into a patch of fog and comes out in another reality altogether. A world where McDonald’s sports a single, green tartan arch, and where his parents have a daughter his age—but no son.
Polly Mayer is an in-house lawyer for a property development company. Her brother Don is a jingle-writing musician. For whatever reason, these two siblings have been chosen to be the next pair of contestants in a multi-dimensional game designed to answer the question, “Which came first—the chicken or the egg?”
Pratchett specializes in examining the nature of our civilization through the lens of a silly, off-bubble fantasy world. Baxter, I take it, likes to play with ideas related to time travel, alternate history, and parallel worlds. Put these two creative minds together, and you get a fascinating world-building experiment that shows what might happen to mankind if (or maybe when) we suddenly figure out how to “step” from one possible Earth to another.
Nita (full name, Juanita Callahan) is a bookish, 13-year-old girl living with her florist father, her ex-dancer mother, and her younger sister Dairine in a Long Island suburb of New York City. She constantly gets beaten up by schoolyard bullies and doesn’t know what to do about it. One day, while fleeing from a confrontation with her nemesis Joanne, Nita finds sanctuary in the children’s section of a public library. There, on a shelf full of career-advice books like “So You Want to Be a Doctor…a Writer…”and so on, she finds a book that just has to be a joke: “So You Want to Be a Wizard.”