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Posts Tagged ‘The Big Bang Theory’

wrongtodaysIt’s about time. Really. In addition to having a wonderfully apt title, Elan Mastai’s first novel All Our Wrong Todays (Dutton Penguin, digital galley) is a wonderfully entertaining and timely tale of alternate realities.

Narrator Tom Barron lives in a 2016 Toronto that resembles the techno-utopia imagined by cheesy SF novels and shows of the 1950s, all flying cars and helpful robots and synthetic food. As every schoolchild knows, this was all made possible by the 1965 invention of the Goettreider Engine, which generates clean energy. Tom’s father, an overbearing research scientist, has finally built the world’s first time machine and plans to send ace chrononaut (time traveler) Penelope Weschler back to 1965 to observe the debut of the Goettreider. But then Tom falls in love with perfection-obsessed Penelope, which leads to disastrous consequences that are further compounded when he travels back to 1965. As every time traveler knows, you don’t mess with things in the past or you risk messing up the timeline and life as we know it  Oh dear. Tom’s arrival in 1965 means the Goettreider Engine fails in spectacular fashion, and when Tom is catapulted back to 2016, he finds himself in our 2016, all fossil-fueled and climate-change challenged.

It’s a clever conceit, that we are living in the dystopia, but Mastai has more tricks to play. Parts of Tom’s life are better in this second 2016. His dad is a happy science teacher, and his literature-loving mom is still alive. He has a sister and a career as successful architect. Still, when Tom starts trying to tell everyone about his time travels, they think he has suffered a head injury and is just talking about the novel he was going to write. Even his new love, bookstore owner Penny, doubts him. To prove he’s not crazy, Tom goes in search of the real-life creator of the Goettreider Engine, journeying to San Francisco and Hong Kong, and eventually back to 1965 again. Oh dear. Messing with that timeline.

All Our Wrong Todays reminded me of Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, with its witty tone and provocative ideas. It also wears its knowledge lightly — like The Big Bang Theory — so that even those who’ve forgotten high school physics or aren’t into science fiction can enjoy the ride. Sure, it’s kind of out there, but so much is these days. I was pleased to know that even in alternate realities, people still read Dickens’ Great Expectations. So read All Our Wrong Todays. It’s a good time.

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rosieAfter several months together, my mom and I are rubbing off on one another. I’ve started watching Jeopardy again, which can make me feel both intellectually superior (you don’t recognize the names of Charlotte’s babies from Charlotte’s Web?) and incredibly stupid (the only stuff I know about physics is from The Big Bang Theory). Now, though, I’ve got Mom watching Big Bang and we can yell out “What is Higgs boson?” with the best of them, if we weren’t such polite Southern ladies.

So I know Mom — and all fans of Dr. Sheldon Cooper — will like Graeme Simsion’s fine and funny first novel The Rosie Project (Simon & Schuster, library hardcover), which is narrated by Don Tillman, an Australian version of Sheldon. He’s a little older than Sheldon — 39 — and is a professor of genetics as opposed to physics, but like Sheldon, he’s a brilliant yet socially inept research scientist. That Don is as endearingly unaware is soon apparent as he delivers a lecture on Asperger’s without realizing he’s describing his own behavior. He does know that he’s a disaster when it comes to women (no second dates), and so conceives The Wife Project in hopes of finding the perfect partner.

His two friends — philandering psych prof Gene and his therapist wife Claudia — suggest that the 16-page questionnaire might intimidate, even anger, most women, but Don proceeds. Grad student Rosie Jarvis fails as a potential partner — she smokes and is chronically late — but she needs Don’s help tracing her biological father. So begins The Father Project, which finds  Don acquiring amazing skills as a bartender so as to collect DNA samples. It’s one of the laugh-aloud moments in a series of hilarious set pieces as Don and Rosie figure out their fraught relationship and that love is both art and science. I haven’t had so much fun since I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Where’d You Go, Bernadette or Lexicon — all entertaining tales that make me feel smarter than I really am. Bazinga!

joshilynJoshilyn Jackson’s Someone Else’s Love Story (HarperCollins, advance reading copy) is a warmly funny novel with quirky characters who don’t know their own hearts — at least not yet. When Georgia college student and single mom Shandi gets mixed-up in a convenience-store robbery, she thinks it’s Destiny that handsome William comes to her and young Natty’s rescue. But her efforts to insert herself into the research scientist’s life are thwarted by her best buddy Walcott, William’s protective friend Paula, and William’s grief over the loss of his wife and child. She also has to cope with her still-feuding divorced parents and the question of Natty’s unknown father; Shandi fell asleep at a fraternity party three years ago and woke up pregnant.  Perhaps William’s research skills could help her search. Oh, Shandi, be careful what you wish for.

Jackson’s use of multiple points-of-view and flashbacks can be disconcerting, but unlike Shandi, she knows exactly where she’s going. I followed the twists and turns with pleasure.

chipIn Elizabeth Hand’s touching Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol (Open Road Media, digital galley), holidays are hard for lawyer Brendan Keegan. But so are regular days — not because he’s divorced and a recovering alcoholic but because he has an autistic 4-year-old son, Peter. “One day you had a toddler who’d always been a little colicky, but who smiled when he saw you. The next day you had a changeling, a child carved of wood who screamed if you touched him and whose eyes were always fixed on some bright horizon his parents could never see.”

This Christmas might be different, though, thanks to Brendan’s childhood friend Tony Kemper, a former 70s punk rocker whose glory days are long gone. Currently unemployed and broke, good-humored Tony moves in with Brendan and Peter, bringing his goofy obsession with Chip Crockett, the iconic host of a long-ago children’s TV show.

Hand’s short novel was originally serialized online in 2000, and is being issued as e-book for the first time. Proceeds are being donated to Autism Speaks in honor of Anne Marie Murphy, a special education teacher who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. Be sure to read Hand’s Author’s Note at book’s beginning, as well her original Afterword.

mansellJill Mansell writes British chick-lit with flair, and in her new Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (Sourcebooks, digital galley), she puts her own spin on the single-guy-with-baby tale. Dexter Yates suddenly discards his London playboy lifestyle when he decides to care for his late sister’s eight-month-old daughter Delphi, but he still causes quite the stir when he moves to a quaint Cotswolds village (is there any other kind?).

Next-door neighbor Molly is a successful cartoonist and seems to be a perfect match for Dex, except for the local lord courting her and a local doctor pursuing Dex. Miscues, misunderstandings and mishaps ensue as Mansell juggles several  love affairs. Happy endings guaranteed.

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