BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two men, one a scientist, the other a workaholic executive, find their lives intersecting in an unusual way around the God Particle.
PROS: Clear writing style, old school SF length, intelligent and interesting discussion of physics and philosophy.
CONS: Paper thin characters, abrupt ending.
BOTTOM LINE: If you are interested in the philosophical ramifications of today’s understanding of physics, wrapped in a mystery/adventure story, this is for you.
MY REVIEW: Steve Keely is a hard working executive for an automotive parts firm. During a business trip to Zurich, he ends up spending time with a lady of night. What he gets for his trouble is a trip out of the third story window and an emergency visit to the hospital. Upon waking, he hallucinates that he can see a ‘field’ that surrounds and penetrates everything around him. He also senses a vast, omnipresent intelligence, but is he really hallucinating?
Mike McNair is the lead scientist on the privately funded North Texas Superconducting Supercollider Project. Their objective is to find the Higgs boson, the so called God Particle. Mike begins to suspect something is amiss when a new administrator is brought on-board and is clearly aiming to replace Mike. Mike tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the actual funders of his project, why they funded it to begin with, and why he is being replaced. Eventually, he and Steve meet, with interesting results.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, and really, its not SF through and through. Its basically a very near future Earth with a working supercollider, similar to the one in Texas whose funding was canceled. While the book is light on SF elements, it more than makes up for that with an exploration of physics (specifically the Higgs boson), philosophy, religion and how our beliefs impact those areas. Most of the good stuff comes from the mouths of the main characters, with Mike getting some of the best lines as he explains today’s thinking on elementary physics. This stuff was fascinating, if not necessarily new to me. He descriptions of physics and how it illuminates the universe almost made me wish I had gone into either physics or astronomy in college. Then I remember all the high level math that I hated. Still, if there were more teachers able to express the descriptive power of physics like Mike, I bet more people would choose careers in it.
Another plus was the writing style. The author writes with clear prose with his words not getting in the way of the character’s words. This makes for a fast yet entertaining read, as most of the action is driven by the character’s words and thoughts. Aside from a few instances, the book is light on action and heavy on dialog and character interaction. Which might have been a bad thing if the book had been longer. At just over 300 pages, The God Particle is almost old school SF in length. I found myself, by the middle of the book, racing through wanting to see what happens next.
Which is where the book gets knocked down a bit. Not that the ending is necessarily bad, but that it happens very abruptly, with some heavy SF themes casually introduced to explain away some events. I found this disconcerting and unfortunate. Unlike Singularity, where the heavy SF elements are hinted at throughtout the book, here they are used to tidy up loose ends. Another knock is for the characters. None of them are particularly interesting, and all are two dimensional. You could argue that Steve has more heft to him since he undergoes a radical transformation after his surgery, and he is the most sympathetic character. Even with the interesting dialogue, I didn’t find the characters stood out. But these negatives aren’t enough to overcome the meat of the story.
Recommended, especially if you are interested in the philosphy behind the physics.