Friday, May 22, 2015

The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

Review based on ARC (advanced readers' copy received for free in exchange for an honest review)

My "review"
A very scienc'y sci-fi, a quite thrilling thriller. The book is an easy "enough" read - although the science is pretty theoretical and seemingly advanced science, Kosmatka has made it largely accessible to the interested sci-fi reader. Although there were a couple moments where I found I really didn't know what was happening, science-wise, my confusion was always resolved, generally sooner rather than later.

The book is also a well-paced thriller, with chases, fights, and danger of all varieties. This book kept me constantly attempting to discern who were the "good guys" and who were the "bad guys"... and who fell in between, and I never knew what was going to happen next and how it would play out -- this thriller literally made me lose sleep, reading into the wee-hours.

I love Kosmatka's originality and I particularly enjoyed the set-up of the story. I loved the theory - discerning whether human souls exist, scientifically - and I enjoyed many of the characters (a favorite being his side-kick, Satvik).

I didn't love as much the ultimate resolution and/or explanation, but it didn't really matter since it was such a fast, engaging read.

Recommended to lovers of sci-fi! Those looking for an intellectual sci-fi thriller will be pleased with The Flicker Men! FOUR of five stars.

My "synopsis" (for those interested)
Eric Argus is a brilliant scientist with a dark past. The death of his father and the subsequent deterioration of his mother have left Eric with a life long struggle with depression and alcoholism.

The story starts with a disgraced and unemployed Eric, whose old buddy from college is giving him a lifeline - a last chance to get his life together - by offering him employment with his science lab. Eric starts working at this lab -- a sort of science "think tank" where brilliant scientists gather to do whatever their brilliant minds want to do with access to whatever resources they could possibly need. Eric is on probation with the company, as all new scientists are, and if he manages to show the company that he has promise (will earn them a reputation or money), he can become a permanent employee. Of course, the problem is that Eric has no motivation, no concern, no intention of actually *doing* anything with his last chance (though he does seem to be somewhat grateful to be there). Instead, he wastes his time chatting with his new lab-friends and drinking (not on the job, but he may as well).

Nevertheless, eventually, Eric decides he wants to re-do the double-slit experiment, just to "see it for himself." A clear waste of resources and discouraged by his boss/old college friend, but because he's given the latitude anyway, he does it. The double-slit experiment is a quantum mechanics experiment that essentially shows what should be impossible to see -- that our awareness of something has an impact on that something existing at all. Very cool science.

Eric successfully reproduces the experiment and then, with the help of some of his lab friends, decides to test the same experiment on animals. Thus, they discover that the experiment only "works" on humans -- i.e., that humans are the only beings with an "awareness" sufficient to impact the experiment, or, as many begin to describe it, humans are the only beings with a soul. In other words -- Eric has just inadvertently proved the existence of a soul.

Of course, religion becomes involved, with high-profile figures attempting to prove or disprove ideas that would further their own agenda. As the experiment becomes public knowledge, Eric and the lab begin to get death threats from all types of people, and warnings are received of the "Flicker Men" with no other explanation.

Suddenly, Eric finds himself in the middle of an epic, long-standing struggle, with the fate of the entire planet in his hands as he fights to understand who or what the Flicker Men are, who or what the Fated are, and what role he has to play in everything.

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