Truth is hope. Hell is the place where all truth is abandoned.
—–Andrew Crumey, Mobius Dick
I have been a fan of the little-known, but known, author Andrew Crumey. He mixes fiction with science, perversity with quantum physics – in a unique and, to me, entertaining and sometimes enlightening way. British, with a PhD in theoretical physics he looks at the world from a different point of view than your run-of-the-mill hack typist. I’ve read Pfitz (1995), D’Alembert’s Principle (1996), and Mr Mee (2000) in the distant past. If I had time I’d re-read them a bit, my memory is fading fast, but I do remember a lot of science, a little history, and a shitload of very unreliable narrators.
There was another book of his that I really wanted to read, if for no other reason than its genius title, Mobius Dick, published in 2004. I searched the bookstores (mostly used) for a copy and never came close. So finally I broke down and bought a Kindle version, put it on my reading plan, and rolled a die. It came up second, after Desperate Characters. Desperate Characters only took a day to read – so then I dug into Mobius Dick. Life intervened and it took a month, longer than I had planned – but today I finished.
I was not disappointed – the book was as complex and as odd as I had hoped. Though it was written almost two decades ago – it is of this time in that it is something of a multiverse oriented piece of fiction. A physics professor named John Ringer receives a mysterious text on his Q-phone that says, “Call me: H.” He has no idea who “H” is… maybe an old lover named Helen?
Chapters alternate between his story, historical episodes from various fictional books that include or involve historical characters such as: Robert Schumann, Erwin Schrödinger, Herman Melville, Thomas Mann, Goethe, Brahms, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Nietzsche, Jung and even Goebbels – to name a few. It’s great fun to track the relationships and the name dropping.
The over-arching plot is of a secretive group attempting to generate power from nothing using a giant vacuum tube and a careful arrangement of nickel-tantalum mirrors. This will also enable them to operate a quantum computer and develop instantaneous long-distance communication methods using quantum entanglement. The only fly in the ointment is John Ringer’s paper that implies that at the energies the thing will operate at – the quantum wave-function may not collapse – leading to multiple realities occurring. Schrödinger’s cat would be both dead and alive – forever.
Not good. Sort of a Moby Dick and the Multiverse of Madness… and the end of everything.
I know this includes many more spoilers than I like – but the book is complex and I wanted to give a flavor. I did have to take notes and do some research on some of the more obscure historical characters and verify everything – it all checked out.
At least in this universe.
So on to the next… let me see… Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin. So many books, so little time.