4 out of 4 stars
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Regina Russo appears out of nowhere at one of the weekly chess tournaments where Ron Larsen often pits his skills against older competitors. Bemused by her beauty, the fourteen-year-old invites her to play. During the game Regina mentions that she is a physics professor at Northern University. He has no idea what physics is, having had little interest in school and never considering that he could become a good student. Regina challenges him, first by keeping tabs on his progress, and later by paying his way through college with the proviso that he must get grade A in whatever subject he chooses to undertake. Ron discovers a love and aptitude for mathematics which takes him all the way to graduate school. Through his college years and beyond, Regina continues to share her knowledge and futuristic concepts in physics with Ron. Eventually their worlds come together in a unique experiment which creates unlikely opportunities but also has incredible consequences.
Timewise by Robert Leet is an absorbing tale of two unlikely people who come to love and appreciate each other while challenging established thought about time and the universe. While the novel includes much scientific discussion, I found that I was more moved by the very human stories of Ron and the people in his circle. Ron is an orphan, who had bounced from foster home to foster home, and when Regina meets him, outside of his interest in chess, he does not have any real centre or sense of purpose. His mathematical ability eventually leads him to become wealthy and quite well known and he moves in high end circles, but he never feels comfortable in that environment. It becomes clear that making money is not his focus; his passion is actively using his mathematical skills to solve problems.
I was particularly intrigued by the roles of the various women in Ron’s life. In a total reversal of the stereotypical view of women as the weaker sex, all the women in Ron’s life have specific goals that they want to achieve and are not afraid to go after them. In contrast Ron seems to meander along according to the situation, in a constant state of self-discovery. Inevitably the women move on when they reckon that they have outgrown their relationship with him. The exception to this is Regina, who continues to challenge and mould him, until he becomes an equal partner.
What I like most about this novel is the beautiful descriptive writing of author Robert Leet. His poetic turn of phrase keeps you quietly captivated with the novel, until you do not want to put it down, even if you do not understand every scientific concept that is discussed. Here is a sample of his writing: “The shadow of sunset crawled across the river and climbed the tall university buildings on the far side, turning them a red so dark they almost glowed black. Time seemed to pause, so we sat in silence.”
I found that what I disliked most were the constant appearances of Regina. She pops up quite often to give Ron yet another physics lesson, often simply carrying on a conversation from a previous meeting which may have been months before. I was quite amused that Robert Leet gives the non-science reader some comfort by having Ron state that he too finds her physics lessons irritating and often does not understand what she is talking about. At one stage, he is concerned about her mental health. Regina’s character in the novel is almost one-dimensional: she seems to have no life outside of physics. It is a reminder that there are people in real-life who are so driven by their beliefs that they leave little opportunity to do anything else. Yet one wonders how she achieves the things that she does, especially those projects that involve extensive physical labour. There is an almost supernatural quality to her as she drifts in and out of Ron’s life.
Timewise has been professionally edited: I found less than ten errors in the entire novel. Additionally, I found just one incidence of an expletive and no focus on religious beliefs, so the novel is well-placed to be read by adults in general. Yet this novel is not for everyone. If you are a science buff or are interested in research on time or the universe, you will be excited about the theories espoused in this book. If you are, like me, more interested in the human factor, you will find this story to be quite engrossing. However, if you are easily overwhelmed by scientific jargon, you will find the discussions on physics to be very tedious.
Timewise starts as a science-focused novel, and there are instances where I believe that some science-based passages are too long and too challenging to follow. However, as the story develops there is an element of the thriller included as Regina and Ron work on an experiment under the noses of the authorities. This lends some added drama and humour to the plot, and keeps the story moving. As of a result of this, the poetic prose of the novel, the absorbing characters, and its professional editing, I believe it truly deserves a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
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