Cover image of "The Flicker Men," a novel about quantum mechanics

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

When physicists talk about reality with precision, they do it with formulas; when they discuss it in general, they sound like monks.” 

Welcome to the strange new world of quantum mechanics! A word of warning, though: stay away from The Flicker Men unless you have enough of a grounding in modern physics to understand the language physicists use; I do just barely, since I’m familiar with many of the words but grasp nothing of the underlying reality or the mathematics on which it’s based. (Yes, there are even a few opaque mathematical formulas in this very strange book.)

In reality, this novel is really two books in one. In the first half, you’ll find yourself in the world of high-stakes physics research, with scientists engaging in abstruse conversations about quantum mechanics and its implications. (As you may be aware, quantum mechanics implies the impossible, but I won’t go into that here.) You’ll also witness what can only be described as discussions in which the characters confront the theological implications of their work. Much of this flew far over my head, of course, but it was engaging enough that I stuck with it to the halfway point in the book.

The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka ★★★☆☆

Then something else happened, and The Flicker Men became a tension-filled, science fiction thriller, replete with brutally violent scenes and a mysterious quest that is set off by the research described in the first half of the book. The suspense never lets up even though the storyline is at times very difficult to follow. Suffice it to say that I read this book to the end but I’m not entirely sure why.

Ted Kosmatka is a successful American science fiction writer whose short fiction has won awards. This is his third novel.

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