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The Universe in Miniature in Miniature Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
“In “The Machine of Understanding Other People,” the novella that concludes this marvelous set of loosely connected stories, the main character is bequeathed a helmet that enables him entry into the minds of others. Perhaps Somerville (The Cradle) had access to such a device as he crafted his wide-ranging yet wonderfully authentic narrators. These densely layered tales invite multiple readings, but even a glance uncovers profound human connection beneath Somerville’s often whimsical surface. ” Publishers Weekly

“Patrick Somerville unleashes the full force of his mischievous imagination. In this inventive and robust collection... bold tales deliver psychological realism to the outskirts of speculative and science fiction. Attuned to the apocalyptic, Somerville, like Jim Shepard and Joe Meno, creates ensnaring plots involving characters in stories of melancholy and absurdity, failure and out-of-the-box heroics.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“With unflagging humor and an emphasis on how we are all in the same, utterly human situation, Somerville keeps the stories from creeping into despondency. It’s as though he’s both the creator of your pensive mood, and the friend who pulls the improbably silly antics that manage to make you smile in spite of it. ” — Kim Hedges, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Look, just read this book. It’s the new year. You’ve got resolutions. I guarantee that, if you’re generous with your definitions and yourself, reading Patrick Somerville’s The Universe in Miniature in Miniature will fulfill at least two of them, maybe more. Read and be amazed. Read and be grateful. ” — Weston Cutter, Corduroy Books

“The Long List ” STORY PRIZE 2010

“BEST BOOKS of 2010” Chamber Four

“WELL READ: Best of 2010” —Tobias Carroll at Vol.1 Brooklyn

“Somerville has vast talent for invention and a flair for writing in a variety of voices, whether his character is a young female, a middle-aged male, or an alien. ” Boston Globe

“2010 Best in Lit: Small Press” —Amber Sparks at Big Other

“Top Ten Small Press Books of 2010” —Kyle Minor at Dzanc Books

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature gives Sci-Fi such a dose of dark humor, style, and domesticity that it really can’t be classified as geek-lit. Through 15 exquisitely drawn portraits—like the title story, about a lovelorn artist who makes models of boys and their fathers making models of the universe—author Patrick Somerville pairs themes that are delightfully abstract with contemporary dialogue. All this culminates in a mysterious mini-thriller, the front and back covers of which fold out into a miniature model of the solar system. ” —Alice Vincent, NYLON

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is that rare thing, a formally inventive and profound book of ideas that also manages to stir the emotions. ” KGB Bar

“Before reading The Universe in Miniature in Miniature , I had never wondered about the effectiveness of a Machine of Understanding Other People. ” The Chicagoist

“Somerville’s ability to depict moments that are heartbreakingly familiar, but difficult to pinpoint and express, serves as one of the major strengths of this book. The Universe in Miniature in Miniature The Universe in Miniature in Miniature will appeal to lovers of contemporary fiction as well as readers who have a penchant for speculative fiction.” ForeWord

“The humor in all of these situations is, of course, balanced with pathos, underscoring the exquisite ambivalence of the human condition in ways reminiscent of both Kurt Vonnegut and Woody Allen. We are flawed, and we are beautiful, and we are funny. Patrick Somerville sees all of it (and then some), and reports lovingly on our shared humanity throughout The Universe in Miniature in Miniature. It is, in short, an amazing collection of stories.” Small Press Reviews

“The total result is rare: a collection of stories that is considerably more than a simple compilation. It left me with a satisfied sense of completeness usually reserved for the best of novels. ” Benjamin Kumming

“Wowee wowee wow! ” Book Covers Anonymous

“The stakes are the fate of the entire world.” —Self Interview at The Nervous Breakdown

TOP 100 BOOKS OF THE YEARKansas City Star

Patrick Somerville tells you why short stories will keep you from "actually going fucking insane." at The Story Prize

“Wowee Wowee Wow! ” Book Covers Anonymous

“One of the most anticipated local releases of the season, Universe grounds its impressive sci-fi fancy with deft storytelling and memorable characters. ” flavorpill

“A deeply successful marriage of surreal structure and aching empathy. ” Vol.1 Brooklyn

Patrick Somerville ♥'s Slartibartfast, and here he tells us why: Largehearted Boy

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature as a whole may be its own machine of understanding other people... ” Blogcritics

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature is just begging to be made into
a dozen or more pseudo-science-fair projects. ” Literary Chicago

Patrick Somerville on "Remembering Intent," aka "How I built a crazy empathy helmet in my mind." TriQuarterly

“Patrick Somerville's collection of loosely intertwined short stories is full of fresh ideas that demand to be spun out at greater length. But he dispatches each of them quickly, in somber prose. Whether his subject is a teenage crush on a high school teacher or a monster made of smoke, Somerville insists that the story is about the people.” Chicago Reader

“Just beneath the level of comically self-devouring gimmickry is a righteous rage. You won’t wake up after aching from an empathy hangover—as users of the helmet do—but you will likely find yourself consumed by the voices of the characters and realize anew the need to relate to others in this fleeting, lunatic, terrifying, and precious world.” decomP

“Patrick Sommerville makes the characters real, unique, fragile, sad, and powerful. You will root for these characters. This is not just a great book, it’s an important book. Read this book. I’m going to say it again. Read this book.” Ghost Ocean Magazine

“Patrick Somerville has perfect pitch across the thirty-odd voices in these stories, gets perfect reception from past and future both. He is funny and sad and scalpel-sharp, at times all in the same sentence. This book contains worlds within worlds. Every single one of them enrichens ours. ” 
 —Roy Kesey, author of All Over

“This is a visionary story collection. Somerville inhabits the minds of his characters so beautifully you can almost picture him reclining on a couch in their brains.” 
 —Jami Attenberg, author of The Melting Season

“"Patrick Somerville is the most devastatingly sensitive badass nerd in contemporary lit--he is as consistently inventive and surprising as anyone writing today. I love this book, with its weird art and crazy machines and secret agents and out-of-control love. It's as if Optimus Prime has folded himself up into a story collection.” 
—J. Robert Lennon, author of Castle

The Universe in Miniature in Miniature

The Universe in Miniature
in Miniature

By Patrick Somerville

Patrick Somerville has perfect pitch across the thirty-odd voices in these stories, gets perfect reception from past and future both. He is funny and sad and scalpel-sharp, at times all in the same sentence. This book contains worlds within worlds. Every single one of them enriches ours. -Roy Kesey, Author of All Over


Out Now! In this genre-busting book from award-winning novelist Patrick Somerville characters, stories, and stray thoughts revolve around the “The Machine of Understanding Other People,” the story of a Chicago man who is bequeathed a supernatural helmet that allows him to experience the inner worlds of those around him. Through his lonely lens we peer into the mind of an art student grappling with ennui, ethics and empathy as she comes to terms with her own beliefs in a godless world. We telescope out to the story of idiot extraterrestrials struggling to pilot a complicated spaceship. We follow a retired mercenary as he tries to save his marriage and questions his life abroad. Mind-bending and cracklingly new, Somerville’s broadly appealing and uniquely imaginative constructions probe the outer reaches of sympathy, death, and love in a world seen from the inside out.


Patrick Somerville's first book of stories, Trouble, and his novel, The Cradle, are awesome. Everyone thinks so. Find out more at




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