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by J. S. Breving
iUniverse, $23.95, 433pp
Release Date: May 23, 2011
Science fiction is the venue for experimenting with ideas, hypotheses, and radical shifts of perspective. Machinations does all of these. As storytelling it has some flaws, but here is a rare chance to check out a proposed universal theory that, if valid, would be as radical as the Rutherford-and-unnamed-graduate-student-who actually-came-up-with-the-idea proposal for atomic structure that explained the odd scattering behavior of atomic particles better than the existing, established “plum pudding” hypothesis. Even so, I object strenuously to the abuse of the adverb “quipped.” It is not a synonym for said, spoke, or remarked. Unless your character has just said something actually clever, funny, and spur-of-the-moment original, do not use that word. Okay, rant over.

Machinations is a tale of two planets and times, told by two narrators, Drew on Mars and Varik on Earth, both young men, but with very different personalities. Drew is gentle, trusting, and very much in love with his smart best friend, Anjali. He follows her on a Matrix style journey of revelation, discovering the strange and secret history of their world. Varik is cynical, brilliant, provocative, a tenured professor at seventeen, now in his early twenties, drug-addicted, and self-centered. When an article he wrote causes an uproar, he decides to dodge the fallout by leaving his seat and taking up politics, to maybe make some of the changes he has been telling others to make. The consequences of Varik’s veering off in this unexpected direction redirect the course of future history. The title proves apt, in more than one way.

A word of warning: the plot is hard to discern or track in the midst of all the self-referential dialogue and internal monologues. This is not a book I’d recommend to action-oriented readers. On the other hand, if you like relationships, snarkiness, speculation and alternative hypotheses about the physics of the universe, this is a very good match. And what if Breving’s book is a diamond that future generations will read along with Einstein and Heisenberg? ~~ Chris R. Paige

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