A playful yet carefully engineered pop-physics excursion, with a host considerably livelier than most narrators on the...
Einstein made (relatively) simple.
There’s always a market for a layperson’s slim guide to modern science—not to mention Albert Einstein—and this novel by veteran screenwriter Carrière (The Secret Language of Film, 1994) has a few entertaining quirks that set it apart. For one thing, it is indeed fiction, and has a plot: A young woman discovers a building somewhere in central Europe that contains the office of the late theoretical-physicist, who’s still hard at work more than 60 years after his death. Einstein’s waiting room is stuffed with people eager to consult with him about some theory, business proposal or complaint, among them cranky and insecure Sir Isaac Newton, who’s baffled by this business of the space-time continuum, relativity and his successor’s heretical notion that God is absent from the universe. The office has numerous doors that open to reveal various pivotal ideas or points of time in Einstein’s life. Much of the discussion between Einstein and the young woman takes on the subject of his role in the creation of the nuclear bomb, both passively (by moving science into the realm of the atom) and actively (by helping to draft the letter to President Roosevelt about the Nazis’ work on nuclear fission that led to the Manhattan Project). Those conversations occasionally read like dutiful catechisms designed to explain Einstein’s key ideas, but more often than not, they bring to life a genuinely charming man. The genius scientist comes across here as genially self-effacing about his celebrity and deeply concerned that he helped engineer humanity’s destruction. Best known for his impressionistic scripts for Luis Buñuel, Carrière here sticks to precise, straightforward prose.A playful yet carefully engineered pop-physics excursion, with a host considerably livelier than most narrators on the Discovery Channel.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006
Page Count: 192
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).
A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Pub Date: June 16, 2020
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.
Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.
In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014
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