EQUATIONS OF LIFE by Simon Morden is a profoundly dystopian romp that takes place approximately twenty years in the future and it is great fun to read. Unlike much of contemporary science fiction, the science is pretty much correct as befits an author with a Ph.D. in planetary geophysics. It is the first in a trilogy, to be followed by THEORIES OF FLIGHT and DEGREES OF FREEDOM, all featuring Samuil Petrovitch, scientific genius, physical wreck, reluctant hero, and academic fraud.
Imagine: a spiral galaxy exactly like our own Milky Way, home to a 4.5 billion year-old yellow dwarf 26,400 light years away from the supermassive black hole powering the galactic center, orbited by an iron-aqueous planet, populated with intelligent, bi-pedal, opposable-thumb mammals identical to humans from their DNA on up; and imagine that on this Earth-like planet, there exists a person exactly similar in every respect â€“ physical, mental, historical â€“ to you, sitting as you are right now, hunched over a keyboard at work or curled up, at home, with your laptop on the couch, but instead of scrolling down through the rest of this review, your counterpart leaves MostlyFiction.com to check her status on Facebook, muttering: What a load of rubbish.
Rebecca Skloot’s THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS is an enthralling look at the origin of HeLa cells that grew “with [such] mythological intensity,” that they “seemed unstoppable.” They were a “continuously dividing line of cells all descended from one original sample” acquired from Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who suffered from a particularly virulent form of cervical cancer complicated by syphilis…Neither she nor her family had any idea that the cells obtained from her cervix in 1951 would eventually number in the trillions and become a vital part of medical research all over the world.
Science, religion, and language intersect in this edgy, Judeo-mystic satire about love, brotherhood, and neuroses in fin-de-siÃ¨cle Vienna. In 1895, oculist Jakob Sammelsohn meets Sigmund Freud on the same night that he eyes and falls in love with Freud’s primary patient, Emma Eckstein. As Jakob is guided into Freud’s world of psychoanalysis, he reluctantly becomes a guide himself. He plunges into the mythological realm of a dybbuk, the dislocated spirit of his dead wife, Ita, who possesses and inhabits Emma. Or so Ita-as-Emma claims. As the relationship intensifies between Jakob, Freud, and Emma, Ita’s haunting voice lures Jakob into a psychosexual seduction.
September 9, 2010
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 19th-Century, Algonquin Books, Freud, Real People Fiction, Sciences, Time Period Fiction, Vienna Â· Posted in: Contemporary, Facing History, Literary
What makes Scarlett Thomas’ writing stand out is her gift of largesse–the narrator’s generosity combined with a brainy appeal that tunneled fluidly into my psyche. She is plainspoken and warm and yet finely cultivated. Thomas introduces esoteric principles as if it were the natural state of things. She can talk about Derrida and Darwin in a way that is effortless, intuitive. Her protagonist’s voice is addictive and honest; indeed, Meg’s thoughts mirror the everyday banter inside my head. Like an overlapping image in pictures, her voice became my voice.
In the baking hot Texas summer of 1899, Harry, the oldest of eleven-year-old Calpurnia Tate’s six brothers gives her a notebook in which she begins to write down her observations of nature. She also longs to get her hands on Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, but the local librarian says it’s barely fit for adults, let alone a child. Calpurnia’s mother is busy riding herd over her seven active offspring and running the house, while her father oversees their cotton acreage and the mill. Neither parent nor all the brothers seem to have a scientific bone in their bodies. In the Tate family, Darwin’s note that “the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather’ seems on the money: Calpurnia’s granddaddy is a rather remote man who retired from commerce years ago to take up the pursuits of a naturalist. One day he comes across his granddaughter making her notes, and they begin exploring their mutual interest together. The old man mentors her, even opening one of his locked cabinets to haul out his copy of the book she so wants to read.