Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Schrödinger’s Ball

schrödingerSchrödinger’s Ball by Adam Felber


Years ago, I was talking with an English professor of mine, who confessed that he would have been a physics major, had he been able to handle the math. Part of me could relate to that. There’s something fascinating about how everything works in our world, and the fact that, the more we learn about how our world is put together, the less we understand how it actually works fuels that fascination for me.

Schrödinger’s Ball is an example of physics meeting literature, and while it didn’t always make much sense to me, it always kept me interested in what was going to happen next. The author creates four very different stories, one regarding a group of four friends (one of whom may already be dead) spending a weekend together, the second involving an exiled President of Montana, the third regarding a homeless woman who’s rewriting history through her journals, and the last centered on Erwin Schrödinger, who seems to be annoying a small group of friends by crashing on their couch and talking about his eponymous cat. That this is all happening about 40 years after Schrödinger’s death doesn’t seem to be an issue.

The novel reminded me somewhat of a Matt Ruff novel. Specifically, it reminded me of Sewer, Gas, Electric, if only because the basic premise was so loony.  If this had read like a Matt Ruff novel, that would have been fine (I’m so looking forward to Bad Monkeys), but Felber has his own charming style, thanks in part to a lot of experience writing humor for television.  His pacing is great, and what could have been a choppy approach to the story (flashing back and forth from one story to the next) worked quite well in building the suspense.  A lot of weird stuff happens along the way, but it never seems over the top.  The author manages to put it all together without it seeming forced, or contrived.  Part of this success is the way that he builds his characters.  I never felt that any of them were fake (aside from Schrödinger, but I think that was intentional), and each of them had their own distinct personality.  It was easy to root for them, and hurt with them during their disappointments.

I’m still confused by the ending.  It seemed that everything was resolved with the penultimate chapter, but then the author spent a chapter explaining the presence of Schrödinger as a character.  I didn’t quite follow this part of the story, if only because it was unexpected.  Had I read something near the start of the novel to explain it?  It’s not so much that I don’t understand Schrödinger’s presence (the author himself explains that the novel is his own explanation of the poorly conceived rebuttal by Schrödinger of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle), but I wish it had been clearer near the start of the novel that this explanation was the obvious one.  I suppose that having a long-dead physicist appear as a main character in a modern setting might have been indication enough, but still….

This is a fun novel, all the more so if you’re into quantum physics.  I don’t think the book will replace any textbooks on the subject, but it’s not supposed to.  If you have a fleeting interest in the subject, and you’re also a fan of either Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, you should get a kick out of this book.  It’s definitely worth reading.


June 11, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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