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by Craig Nova

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61902-023-8
Publisher: Counterpoint

From Nova (The Informer, 2010, etc.), another illustration, painted in noirish tints, that love is all we need.

Jason Brady is the hero, father of the protagonist, Jake. Jake is an astronomer, and the constant of the title refers to both his father’s virtue and to the Constant, a component of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The book is set in upstate New York, in a small city devolving into a generic suburb of all-night pharmacies, auto parts stores and mini malls. Jake is in love with Sara, a cynic from a broken home. Together, they stare into space at pictures beamed back from the Hubble telescope. When cracks appear in Jake’s home, his father is a rock, doing right even by those who wrong him. Jake escapes into academics. Sara, afflicted, falls into trouble. Returning to live near his father, Jake becomes reacquainted with Sara in an encounter of cable-ready cinematic mayhem—an absurd, even laughable moment. But the book gains momentum, as if Nova has come back to the monochrome country where he is most comfortable. Sara is in the thick of what rhymes with it, and she draws the two men out of their comfort zones and into her eccentric orbit. The exquisite, excruciating climax pits Sara’s boorish pursuers against the Brady patriarch’s implacable virtue. If the rest of the book were half as gripping as this adventure in the noir wilderness, it might be considered a classic. But the taut moments only make the execrable and the platitudinous more so.

Wildly uneven, by turns cringe-worthy and hilarious, this is an uneventful trip to a worthy destination.