Premise: The zievatron is a device that can access parallel worlds, and physicist Dennis Nuel has been locked out of the Zievatron Project by his rival, Bernald Brady. However, when the return mechanism ends up malfunctioning, Dennis is tapped as the only one who can fix it. The only problem is that he must go through to the other world to do so. With him will come the “pixolet”, a flying pixie-like creature that slipped in from the other world.
In searching for the materials to repair the return mechanism, Dennis comes across the Coylians, people who speak English, but whose culture is quite different from Earth. Their society is based upon “The Practice Effect,” where nothing is made from scratch. Everything is “practiced” until it gets better and better through use. Sticks are practiced into tools and rough cloth becomes fine silk. The L’Toff are the “makers” who create the basic structures from which objects are practiced from.
Dennis gets pulled into the politics of the world and finds himself pitted against Baron Kremer, who is putting himself into a political position to rule the world, and has plans for the making “wizard” Dennis. Instead, Dennis must use his knowledge of science from his own world and combine it with “The Practice Effect” to stop Kremer, repair the zievatron, and return home. Luckily, he has the help of the pixolet, an ever-improving exploration robot, the L’Toff Princess Linnora, and a thief named Arth.
Themes: Dennis is called a wizard simply because the thought of making something from scratch is absurd to the Coylians, since you can practice something into perfection from a primitive rudimentary start. Because of his gift to make things, however clumsy they may be, he quickly becomes a leader against Kremer, with his leadership skills combining with his abilities as a scientist. The man with these skills that Kremer wants to take advantage of ends up becoming the adversary he must face.
In The Practice Effect, we discover that not only are we looking at traveling through worlds laterally, but also through time. The progression of science can bring worlds together, but it can also cause harm and degradation if unrestrained. Balance can be achieved through using knowledge and tools responsibly.
There is some romance in The Practice Effect, but it isn’t really explored incredibly deeply. There is a love triangle between the trio of scientists of Gabriella, Dennis, and Brady, with attentions going in different directions. With the addition of Linnora (slight spoiler) things might just work out for everyone.
Pros: While the dialogue isn’t the greatest, I found the most fun characters to be those who don’t speak: both the robot and the pixolet. These were far more interesting than most of the other characters, though Arth’s accent was fun to read. I thought the premise, once you buy into it, becomes an interesting twist on what we know about the physics of our world. Dennis’ exploration robot even improves as the story progresses and becomes an important character as well.
Cons: If you can’t buy into basic laws of physics being turned on their heads, then you might not enjoy The Practice Effect. The characters are fairly bland, and the premise might fall apart under close scrutiny of certain readers. Because of this, I found it to be more of a mix of both science fiction and fantasy.
Recommendations: If you can overlook what we know about physics, the story holds together quite well by the time you reach the end. The final explanation about why things work the way they do makes everything much more plausible. While the dialogue isn’t spectacular, the story is well told with a different concept I haven’t seen before. The Practice Effect is a recommended quick, quirky, and fun read.