Bewildering Stories

Adam Fawer, Improbable

reviewed by Jerry Wright

Author: Adam Fawer
Publisher: William Morrow
Hardcover: 416 pages
ISBN: 0060736771
Price: $24.95

Improbable is just that. But it is a well written SF romp through probability, Quantum Mechanics, the Collective Unconscious, and the "fan-shaped destiny" I first read about in the works of H. Beam Piper.

Due to the wisdom of the publishers, this book is NOT being marketed as SF. Instead it is being called a thriller, and the next big book like The DaVinci Code. And this is paying off as the book is like about 4000th at Amazon and includes a six figure marketing budget.

So, what is it about? Seems that there is this graduate student named David Caine. He has a brilliant mathematical mind, so much so that one of his professors calls him "Rain Man". He is also a compulsive gambler who sometimes has epiliptic seizures. Right at the beginning of the book he is involved in a game at a Russian Mafia-owned cardroom, doing the math, ready for the big score, when he has a seizure and ends up owing the Russians $11,000.00. This is a bad thing because the seizures have made it impossible for him to teach (which when he was capable, he was extremely good at).

So there's this experimental drug you see... And after that, things really get crazy. Voices in the head, the ability to tamper with probabilities, becoming Laplace's demon, tapping Jung's collective unconscious... And, all through-out the book, the most marvelous lectures (some revisiting Caine's classroom) on statistics and probability, quantum mechanics, Jung, LaPlace's Demon, and excellently reasoned looks at our space-time continuum.

The book is fun, tautly written, and also has an ex-Russian rogue CIA agent lady, explosions, fights, more explosions, and some scary operatives that are neither good nor bad, simply amorally trying to get their work done.

I was hard-pressed to put this book down, and it interfered way too much with "real life", but it was a wild and fun ride, and what seemed to be totally disparate themes and episodes were tied together in a tidy bundle.

Once again, a warning on rough language. I dunno... John Grisham writes taut fiction without needing recourse to really bad language. Ah well.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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