Monday, September 26, 2005

What I read this weekend

Dante's Equation, by Jane Jensen.

A missing manuscript by a Jewish mystic who vanished from Auschwitz.
The study of Torah code.
Quantum physics and a mathematical equation for the universal forces of "good" and "evil."

I eat that stuff up.

Dante's Equation has the additional draw, for me, of alternate universes. Throw in a government operative who monitors scientific research for potential weapons technology.

Many reviews liken the elements of Dante's Equation — a thriller built around religious symbology — to Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code (which I enjoyed, if only because of those "religious" elements). The comparison is fair (Jensen told in her Grail Templar conspiracy story in another medium years ago). The writing is, to be polite about it, inelegant.

The characters are mostly unlikeable, but this in fact serves a purpose in the second half of the book. At that point, the physical laws of the universe sort the characters off to alien worlds that reflect their truest natures, their own personal heaven-hell, from which they all emerge in the end, perhaps too neatly, enlightened.

As one review notes:
Jane Jensen is careful to make clear that "good" and "evil", with all their moral baggage, are subjective concepts, while the universal forces these ideas reflect are simply physical laws, devoid of moral weight. Also, for all the lavish employment of religious imagery, she is wise enough to leave relative the question of God. While Aharon finds in his experience a new and restored faith, to Jill it's all about science.

Another review points out some shortcomings:
For any reader who has some basic knowledge of quantum mechanics or wave theory, the scientific concepts that represent the core of the book are ludicrous mumbo jumbo. It is also annoying in an SF novel for the author not to know the difference between a bacterium and a virus, or not know that rotting fruits are not dying but being consumed by microorganisms. It is also annoying for the scientists not to express surprise that Torah code provides insights into quantum physics and future history.

There's so little science talk in this novel, I can't say I noticed. And I don't really care. The ideas are still pretty cool.


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