This book varied wildly from story to story, and there were parts I liked a lot more than others. On the whole since the parts I liked were so very much a bullseye for “Things I Will Read 100% Of the Time,” I can forgive the parts between which were “Things I Will Roll My Eyes At And Abandon Books For.”
Despite disliking non-fiction, historical non-fiction stories of science (or math) is my kryptonite. And as such, this novel–with its lightly (to heavily) embellished stories behind scientific innovation was exactly what I love reading. At its best, this book reminded me of Fermat’s Enigma, one of my all time favorite books. At its worst, this book reminded me of Lolita. Which isn’t a compliment.
The summary for this book is a bit misleading. It makes it seems like these are sci-fi/fantasy versions of things that we know happened (i.e., Einstein did spend a good portion of his later life trying to math away the truth of quantum relativity, which ruined the grand symmetry that he believed underpinned the whole of the universe–and was described by his equations). Instead, these are attempts at figuring out what went on behind the scenes, in situations where no one was attempting to keep notes and memorialize the story for ages.
Which is funny, because 100% of the main characters are dudes, and 95% of them are white dudes, and if there’s anything that old (and current) white dudes love it’s thinking that whatever they’re doing, at the moment, is the most important thing ever and should be immortalized for ever. But I digress.
For most of the stories, I found myself engrossed with the backstory. The Schrödinger/Heisenberg story that occupies the majority of the length (they’re short stories, not really interlinked) was of course always going to entrance me given my love of Frayn’s Copenhagen. But I keep thinking about the light dramatization of the Nazi army’s use of straight up meth to keep its soldiers going throughout the way on ever dwindling resources.
Could I have done without the little interlude where Schrödinger falls in love with a teenager? Duh. But all in all, would recommend.