4 out of 4 stars
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First, Timewise is a fascinating book—and exhausting—but I mean this in the best possible sense. For those who love physics, quantum mechanics, and theories that force you to both visualize and think through a difficult question, this novel is an exceptional read.
Ron Larsen is an orphan in the system who, like many kids of exceptional intelligence, has become bored by school as well as by his life. In playing in a local chess league, he is befriended by a mysterious young woman named Regina who is a physics professor at a nearby college. She takes an interest in this young, bored, but brilliant mind, and soon she has challenged him to think about not just theoretical ideas to keep him moving in a forward direction intellectually, but she also supports him so that he will go to school and similarly find his life also moving in a forward trajectory. Where he goes from there will be up to him, but she will continue to figure in his life in important and ironic ways throughout the novel.
The novel, as told by Ron in a realistic first-person narration, moves in fascinating directions; his mind, so suitable for mathematics, finds him ultimately designing a formula to predict stock trajectories. Working with a woman and fellow grad student with strong family ties to Wall Street—who will eventually become his wife—he is then surprised to find Regina contacting him, asking for his help with one of her theories. His appreciation to (and continued fascination with) Regina causes him to take her up on it. So begins an even more wild—if thrilling—part of the novel.
The strength of this book is not just the infusion of quantum theory in important and relevant ways which act as a kind of parallel to the narrative; such theory also seems to act as an overarching scaffold for the emotional relationships in the book as well. Why do certain people come into our lives, and then, why do they leave? How do time and awareness affect one another? Can we really predict the future, or do we just notice what has already happened from a different perspective? How does the idea of “entanglement” figure into the mix both in life events and in human relationships?
This book allows for a human story to unfold while not just asking—but demonstrating to an extent—how these quantum theories are so relevant to everyday, temporal life. The book could solely exist as a fascinating character profile of a seemingly “normal” man and human being on the outside who actually has a brilliant mind. Ron has very human foibles like any human being; these leading him into some unexpected relationships and events. But on a whole different level—a deeper level—it also forces the reader to ask some mind-bending questions about reality itself using scientific theory. This is so aptly demonstrated by Ron’s life, and his mysterious “entanglement” with Regina, that the reader is left in wonder by the underlying skill of the storytelling.
There were moments I had to stop reading and I just had to sit for a moment, dazed, pondering the science. There were other moments my fascination for where the story was going kept me reading, even though I didn’t have the science completely visualized—yet.
For anyone who loves scientific theory, this is a must-read. For others, who aren’t so fascinated by quantum theory or theories of the universe on both microcosmic (quantum) or macrocosmic (cosmological) levels, it might be a mire, despite the strength of the story with Ron alone, acting as an avatar of the reader in pondering and setting up such questions.
But for a geek like me, and because of the inordinately expert storytelling, this necessitates me giving it 4 out of 4 stars. The author told this story in such a way as to keep it moving and always luring the reader further by staying one step ahead. Ron was also such an “every man” in certain ways, despite his intellect, which thankfully kept him accessible to the reader. This made the book even more impressive. Ron could have been like many main characters in a novel such as this—ultra-handsome with massive charisma but just “misunderstood”; the author does not use such clichés here. This was very refreshing, and it gave the story much more credibility. It also begs the question: how many seemingly “normal” people really are truly extraordinary in certain ways once you get to know them? What kind of hidden brilliance is some unassuming person sitting next to you on a bench or in a diner keeping from the world?
That such questions are inspired makes reading this book truly worth it—as long as the reader never expects just an entertaining but passive—and mindless—read!
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