I said in a status update while reading Singer Distance that it was giving me Contact vibes, and that’s true. The homespun science and grungy academic feel of the book, along with a group of characters working towards contacting aliens does give me the same feelings I get watching that movie (I have the book and I really need to finally read it!), but Singer Distance also has its own unique feel.
This is an alternate history where back in the late 1800s, scientists spotted a message on Mars and began communicating back, with Mars setting mathematical problems for humans to solve at intervals, presumably as tests of intelligence, and the scientific community makes it all the way to the 1930s until they are completely stumped by one of them.
Set in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, our main character is Rick, one of the group of graduate students who reached out to the Martians and solved their most recent challenge, one that had been puzzling the top mathematical minds for over three decades. His girlfriend, Crystal Singer (a mathematics prodigy and genius) is the one that did the actual solving, and their success catapults all of them to instant global fame, something Crystal doesn’t handle well. Since this is literary science fiction, it’s harder to put into words the tone of the book and the themes its tackling, but the emphasis here isn’t one your usual science fiction book would take. Though the aliens are a motivating presence in the book, most of the science and math that’s present feels very grounded and real, even when it starts taking a turn to the speculative.
This was a short read in terms of page length, and in reading time. I found it really compelling and hard to put down. I would absolutely love to see it as a movie, and I hope more people read it, as right now the number of ratings on Goodreads is pretty low.
“Music is a miracle. It adds something to the world that didn’t have to be here. Language is a miracle. Every sentence ever spoken and every song ever sung is a new invention. Not only do they add something new to the world, they transmit thoughts and emotions that would otherwise be locked within one person. I hear a song and feel something a composer felt 200 years ago. I read your letter and hear your voice saying the words. I feel you in the room with me.”