Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson

This is a complex novel and was difficult for me to read. When I read fiction I don't exercise the same intensity of concentration as I do when reading nonfiction. For me, fiction is an escape to a place where intense thinking is not necessary. This novel required attention to detail and deliberate concentration.

The scene is the early 1700s (I think) in Basel. The era is one of great discovery and dialog in the field of Mathematics. The ideas of Newton, Leibniz, and Descartes were being debated. It was a time when the Basel University still believed that God motivated His creation, rejecting the idea that the universe was just a machine obedient to physical laws.

There is a great deal of historical background in the novel. Many of the characters were actual mathematicians of the day. We learn a great deal about the structure of the University at this time. In fact, the Tsar of Russian was in the process of forming the University of Saint Petersburg as the novel progresses. The major focus of the plot is the election of the next Chair in Physics, a quite complex process.

Robertson has a way with words. Some of his writing is almost poetic. I did find parts of the dialog very hard to follow. There were times when I felt I was privy to only part of what was being said or understood. That may have been a technique used to keep the solution to the mystery hidden until the very end but it was disconcerting.

The construction of the novel was clever. It was, in a sense, a mathematical proof. The debate is whether physical laws rule or if a man can supersede them for his own design. We find the answer at the end of the novel.

This is a rewarding novel, but do be prepared to think well and consistently when reading it.

Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part time high school teacher, and the author of five novels. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner of 15 years and lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Bethany House Publishers, 432 pages. Visit the publisher's product page where you can read an excerpt.

I received a complimentary egalley of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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