The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

This was very nearly the best book I’ve read this year. The plot was original, the settings: detailed and numerous, and the characters: an eclectic group of genius-level misfits.

The Flicker Men

Meet Eric Argus: a scientist/quantum mechanic with a drink problem. He formulates an experiment, the outcome of which changes depending on whether it is being observed or not.

Nope. Scratch that.

The outcome of the experiment changes depending on whether the results will be examined in the future.

As if this isn’t mind-blowing enough, Eric also realises that animals observing the experiment do not change the outcome.

So, has Eric discovered evidence of the human soul?

As you can imagine, Eric’s discovery brings him unwanted attention and fame (it means he has to be reliably sober most of the time now), not to mention the interest of the pro-life lobby: if an unborn infant can be shown to possess a soul, then aborting it would be tantamount to murder.

And once the pro-lifers get involved, then Eric’s life turns into a runaway express train.

Now, I said this was almost the best book I’ve read this year – and it was, almost.

Once the complex science behind the plot had been explained, the pace slowed down dramatically. There was a lot of driving around to different places, during which the environment expanded to cover theoretical alternate universes. People were dispatched in gruesome fashion, and it all felt as though it was building toward something momentous … but it sort of petered out by the time the climax arrived. I think The Flicker Men held a lot of promise, but didn’t quite deliver.

But what it did deliver was a masterclass in excellent prose. The characterisation was also, top notch. The complexity of the science was brilliantly handled, I just think it was just the ending where it somehow failed to deliver.

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