An imaginative but difficult tale that cares more about its underlying scientific theories than its plot.

TETRASTATUM

A debut sci-fi novel spins a tale about a government researcher sucked into an interdimensional quest regarding the nature of time and space.

Everyone thinks that Dr. Tim Smith’s job is winding up atomic clocks at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In reality, he is assigned to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where he leads the Quantum Teleportation Project, the goal of which is to “teleport matter across space-time at a speed exceeding that of light—contrary to” the basic tenets “of known physics!” His colleague there is Dr. Richard, an eccentric scientist who wears a red lab coat resembling Hugh Heffner’s smoking jacket and insists that the temperature always be kept at 69 degrees. Richard is also the pioneer of Psychothotonix, a complex theory involving the ways human perception shapes reality. Still reeling from the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident three years ago, Tim exists on the cusp of a breakdown: driving his car at night with the headlights turned off, sustaining himself on Scotch, and talking to the ghost of the banker who once owned his house. One morning, he decides to transport himself through space and time in order to save his family, though it doesn’t go quite according to plan. Tim wakes up in a sanatorium, where a hallucination of Richard continues to speak to him about the history of physics. Electroshock treatment zaps Tim to an alternate dimension, where he meets Ahura Mazda, the manager of a cosmic garden supply store. Mazda reveals that Tim Smith is actually a Time Smith and that his destiny is to protect the space-time continuum from the interference of humanity. Can Tim rise to the occasion, right the wrongs he’s done, and save his wife and daughter? First, he’ll have to convince everyone he isn’t insane. Authors Dr. Richard and Smith (which are pen names) tell their cerebral story with a heady mix of dense theory and absurdist humor. Sometimes, particularly when Tim is narrating, they manage to translate the science into intriguing vernacular: “The brain fills in the blank spots….After working in this place for over four years, I can tell you with certainty there is a hell of a lot more out there that the brain is incapable of visually assimilating, yet exists.” But elsewhere, in-depth discussions of physics bring the plot to a frustrating halt. The characters are rendered with an appreciable dose of personality, though the authors tend to sexualize every woman to a cartoonish extent. Accompanied by impressive ink illustrations by Krekeler (Dry Spell, 2015, etc.) and 90 pages of appendices going into great scientific detail, this book should satisfy a particular sort of sci-fi reader who is deeply interested in quantum physics and related fields. More casual sci-fi fans, even those who like a good mind-bender, will likely find themselves in over their heads.

An imaginative but difficult tale that cares more about its underlying scientific theories than its plot.

Pub Date: June 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948796-67-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Epigraph Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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