The author Jane Jensen is a computer scientist and computer games author, so I was optimistic that she would make a good stab at exploring, in fictional form, the possibility that future research in quantum physics will draw us to understand the past, present and future of human destiny. And then I read the awful opening paragraph of the book.
“Denton Wyle was seriously re-examining his choices...his back pressed hard against the cabin of the rescue ship as sea spray slapped him on the cheeks like an outraged Englishman...” Eh ? Come again. But please, persevere with this, it really is worth it.
“One of the keys to deep wisdom is that there are only a few patterns in all of creation, and they are repeated over and over. The planets revolve around the sun just as the electrons in an atom revolve around the nucleus. The whorls of a seashell mirror those of galaxies. ‘As above, so below.’ The Micro is a mirror image of the Macro....The physical world is made up of dualities: male / female, hot / cold, day / night, birth / death. There is no ‘itness’, no ‘beingness’, which does not have an opposite. Science has proven this true at every level of life: there is no particle without a corresponding antiparticle, no force without a counterbalance” From the Book of Torment by Josef Kobinski, Auschwitz 1943.
This duality forms the central thesis of the novel. The heroine and hero are University of Washington Professor Jill Talcott, a young, driven quantum physics researcher of dysfunctional family provenance, and her loyal assistant Nate Andros (yes, an amorous interest does develop, sort of). Talcott is secretively researching wave mechanics and energy pools (which the conventional scientific community finds laughable). The Department of Defense (a non-public branch of the US military-government complex) is on to her. In the form of the equally dysfunctional Lt Calder Farris, who has almost super-human physical strength, and will stop at nothing to get hold of her research.
Talcott has convinced her covetous and jealous departmental heads to let her test her wave equation on the department’s supercomputer. After the obligatory Eureka moment she and Nate discover the “One-Minus-One” wave theory which predicts the behaviour of all sub-atomic particles based on the interaction of wave-particles in higher dimensions. Their insight is that space-time itself also has a particular type of wave pattern. It is rectangular rather than sine-wave (hence crests are “plus ones” and troughs are “minus ones”). If radio waves are blasted out from an emitter in a form which exacerbates this wave pattern, in a way that makes both the crests and troughs more pronounced, then they can alter the nature of matter itself. Their initial experiments are conducted in a basement lab on rats, fruits, cultures, and since they are both present in the lab, then by definition, themselves. The results do indeed show behavioural changes in the subjects. As the power of the emissions are increased on the plus side the subjects respond positively, becoming healthier and showing greater reproductive tendencies. But increasing on the minus side has the opposite “evil effect”. What if events, which are essentially groups of waves, also can also be similarly grouped into “good” and “evil”, and be manipulated accordingly ? The scientists start to grasp the fearsome possibilities that their research could unleash if it got into the wrong hands.
Aharon Handalman is an orthodox Rabbi in Jerusalem. He has become obsessed with the life of Josef Kobinski, having found encrypted references to Kobinksi and to dangerous weapons in the ancient Torah Code. Kobinski was a Kabbalist Rabbi sent to Auschwitz with his young son during the war. Acknowledged as a brilliant scientist, Kobinski had set out his scientific theories in a manuscript during the period of his incarceration. “Kobinski believed that the highest spiritual path was to balance your sephirot [Tree of Life], to come into perfect alignment right down the center of the tree. It is like a stick…which is all crooked. It cannot go through a narrow hole. In the case of the soul, there is also a narrow opening, at the navel, and the soul must be perfectly straight and smooth…to pass through…to escape the lower five dimensions…of good and evil.” Handalman must make the journey to Poland to discover what actually happened to Kobinski in Auschwitz sixty years ago. He now regrets having tipped off his friend at Mossad about his research.
Denton Wyle is a small-time Californian journalist, living off his trust fund money. A wayward, lucky, shallow womanizer. He has drifted into writing articles on mysticism, strange occurrences, and particularly, strange disappearances. But now he thinks he has hit upon something big. A Kabbalist Rabbi called Kobinski who seemed to have mysteriously disappeared from Auschwitz. If he could just get his hands on Kobinski’s manuscript, whether by fair means or foul, he could really make a name for himself.
Farris, Talcott and Andros, Handalman, Wyle. All are motivated by a different reason to understand the consequences of Dante’s Equation, and they all know that Kobinski’s papers hold the key. And this is where the book really excels. It takes us into four parallel mini-stories, where each of the characters gets to experience those consequences first hand, to experience a world outside of his or her current existence, where the fundamental 50/50 equilibrium between good and evil of our earthly existence no longer holds.
The author has attempted a grand project here. She deserves congratulations for this effort.
This is the Wikipedia link for the book.