Category Archives: physics

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

Gone Away World CoverBonus science: Apiology

Spoiler: Nick Harkaway’s second novel Angelmaker also has bees.

Rating: 11

I started The Gone-Away World a few paragraphs at a time. Every Saturday morning I  woke up, ate some dark chocolate, and sat in the morning sun to read the same sentences and maybe a few more. After a few months, I had the first chapter, after a few more months, the first few pages of the second chapter.

And the next moment, I had made it to the middle of the book without realizing that I had been displaced into Harkaway’s world. The opening sentences about a difficult, unknown bar populated by edgy strangers had seemed redoubtable at first, but later became addictive. The further I went along, the more I re-read. And when I finished, I wanted to re-read the whole book, in randomly sequenced pieces or straight through.

The characters, predicaments, and locales are recognizable and minutely specific, yet retain a certain vagueness to time and place so that when something in the real-world is pinpointed, it’s jarring. The world floats on Harkaway’s words, in the moment, in his wit and perspective, and in the thickness of convoluted, sensical ideas.

I didn’t like everything about the book; there were sections that dragged or were awkward. On first reading, the introduction of mimes seemed gratuitously clever and unnecessary, just as you would expect mimes to be. Towards the end, there was a moment of betrayal and I almost set down the book forever- how could an author as brilliant as Harkaway commit a literary crime so… so… so… you know…  But I slogged through the main character’s sloggishness and then re-read the beginning and the ending.

Even the roughness and imperfections I came to admire, because the stories and prose were wonderfully crafted and the sense of adventure for the characters and the language were so thrilling, that the avidness of the avid reader was visceral.

I highly recommend this book, knowing full well that my humble endorsement will raise your expectations impossibly high. And knowing that The Gone-Away World will still exceed those expectations.

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Footprints of Thunder by James F. David

Footprints of Thunder coverGeoscience factor: Dinosaurs

Bonus science: Time Space Continuum

Spoiler: If you try and kiss a girl, she will be eaten by a dinosaur, or something worse! Fossils don’t make sense!

Rating: 3

This just in from the News of the Strange- dinosaurs have been brought to you in New York, Florida, and Portland! See prehistoric creatures, witness modern-day panic! Behold James F. David’s attempt to be thrilling!

Footprints of Thunder is a mediocre read, from the bargain bin title that doesn’t quite fit the plot, to the generic cover art that doesn’t quite correspond to the story, on to the troubled characters that cobble together the catastrophic events. Even the writing bespeaks a passable literacy, relying heavily on cliché to tug at the reader’s heart and mind.

Base instincts drive humans and dinosaurs in similar ways, but the displaced dinosaurs’ primal impulses are more enthralling than the humans’. In particular the tale of the Iguanodon had me in tears. As you can guess, that storyline ended.

For a book that quotes prophecies at the beginning of almost every chapter, it’s odd that the humans live completely in the moment, reacting and acting without thought to consequence. Despite the government and scientific communities that David describes, David’s portrayal of individuals doesn’t allow for a society capable of contemplating the Time Space Continuum, much less destroying or repairing it.

As seems usual in these dinosaur thrillers, the U.S. president makes an appearance, prompting the patriot to wonder, “How will America once again save the world? Will American families be reunited? Will dinosaurs be granted citizenship?”

I leave it to you, Reader, to make the bold decision to either engage in this second-hand thriller or to send it off to the Goodwill in a plastic bag of oversized pants and a functioning VCR.

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