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.

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter

Don’t jump into book 2 straight after book 1.

This is the second book in a series of three. (I reviewed Noumenon a while back, and I really enjoyed as I remember). You’re not going to be too surprised when I tell you that this book follows on from Book 1, more specifically the ongoing adventures of the seventh convoy as it takes on multi-millennium task of returning to the Dyson Sphere, completing, then activating it … to see what it does.

Yeeessss, the first and most obvious mistake is not doing your research: you don’t just go around switching on devices large enough to encase a sun, then cross your fingers and hope for the best. Needless to say, things start go wrong when the newly activated devices starts to behave in unexpected ways.

Like the first book, Noumenon Infinity is a monstrously epic tale spanning hundreds of thousands of years. The cast list, again, is immense, and once again the author treats each one as an individual tale that slips neatly into the massive story arc. The science is sound (in theory) and it was pacy enough to keep me reading constantly … for the first few days at least.

The last few hundred pages were struggled through with bloody-minded determination. The combination of aliens, post-humans, the Dyson Sphere, and the fleet splitting into two then reuniting centuries later was a bit of a struggle, and a little bit tedious at times. The prose didn’t strike me as punchy this time round, and in places seemed a little bit overdone.

Having said all that, I think this was partially my fault at least. Both these books were epic reads, so maybe doing them both back to back wasn’t a good idea. Essentially, it’s the same story told over hundreds of thousands of years. Hardly surprising then that I got a little fatigued near the end.

There’s one more book in the series which I’m going to leave until next year.