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Shadow World

Shadow World [Kindle Edition]

Chris Impey
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

McEvoy is a truth-seeker. He has moments when he sees through the surface sheen of the world to a deeper reality, and moments when his sense of self dissolves. The Scotsman is restless, a wanderer. He flings himself into new relationships, even as he flees family secrets. In Shadow World, we see through McEvoy’s eyes as he grows from boisterous youth to a man defined equally by darkness and light. We meet his demons and his lovers. His adventure unfolds like beads on a string, with each episode separate yet connected. His journey takes him from the Arizona desert to the wilds of Patagonia, from the Silk Road in China to the lush countryside of Ireland, ending in a twilight zone near the Arctic Circle. Shadow World is a first novel by noted popular science writer Chris Impey.

Shadow World inhabits the boundary between narrative fiction and science fiction. It explores the tension between artifacts and natural forms, between reality and illusion, between the science that is and the science that might be. The novel is filled with intriguing characters. We meet a death camp survivor for whom music is everything, a relentless archeologist who is rewriting the story of human civilization, a mercurial sculptor who has a personality that mirrors her art, identical twins who inhabit parallel worlds of science and religion, a brilliant but raunchy astrophysicist, and an enigmatic philosopher who seems to know McEvoy better than he knows himself. By the end of his twenty-year odyssey, McEvoy has gained a startling insight into his reality, and perhaps ours as well.

About the Author

Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor and Deputy Head of the Department, in charge of all academic programs. His research interests are observational cosmology, gravitational lensing, and the evolution and structure of galaxies. He has 170 refereed publications and 65 conference proceedings, and his work has been supported by $20 million in grants from NASA and the NSF. As a professor, he has won eleven teaching awards, and he has been heavily involved in curriculum and instructional technology development. Impey is a past Vice President of the American Astronomical Society. He has also been an NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar, a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, and the Carnegie Council on Teaching's Arizona Professor of the Year. He was a co-chair of the Education and Public Outreach Study Group for the Astronomy Decadal Survey of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Impey has written over thirty popular articles on cosmology and astrobiology and co-authored two introductory textbooks. His first popular book "The Living Cosmos," was published in 2007 by Random House. His second and third, called "How It Ends" and "How it Began," both on the subject of cosmology" were published in 2010 and 2012 by Norton. His most recent popular book in 2013 covering iconic NASA missions is called "Dreams of Other Worlds" and a book will be released in 2014 on his work teaching cosmology to Buddhist monks in India called "Humble Before the Void." He recently published his first novel, called "Shadow World."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1214 KB
  • Print Length: 330 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Dark Skies Press; 1 edition (24 Oct 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G6UBW28
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #477,971 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A compulsive educative read 19 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a most unusual book, a mixture of fact and fantasy. I learned about archaeology, palaeontology, astronomy, astrobiology, physics, modern art. The action was deliberately disjointed, and I was left, at the end, wondering whether the hero was the work of a computer programme or the product of a superior intelligence from another gallaxy. However, the novel was beautifully and intelligently written, and I was left wanting more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars In the footsteps of Carl Sagan 24 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Chris Impey is one of the go-to writers of popular science, and with this, his first novel, he follows in the tradition of scientist-novelists such as Carl Sagan. To be a top scientist is one thing; to be able to write about it in an entertaining and informative way is another, and Impey has shown his skill several times. It's a further step to write non-fiction, and Shadow World will be a treat for all those interested in science, science-fiction, and broader investigations into the meaning of reality itself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the footsteps of Carl Sagan 25 Jan 2014
By Scott Zodiac - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Chris Impey is one of the go-to writers of popular science, and with this, his first novel, he follows in the tradition of scientist-novelists such as Carl Sagan. To be a top scientist is one thing; to be able to write about it in an entertaining and informative way is another, and Impey has shown his skill several times. It's a further step to write non-fiction, and Shadow World will be a treat for all those interested in science, science-fiction, and broader investigations into the meaning of reality itself.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is the Troubled Protagonist One of a Kind? 10 May 2014
By not a natural - Published on
The seven stories that make up Chris Impey's science fiction/science fact novel Shadow World are distinct but fundamentally inter-related. Each is interesting, sometimes fascinating, and when all is said and done, I think they present us with a uniquely troubling rendering of what it means to be human. It's unusual to divide a novel, ostensibly a coherent whole that conventionally has an over-riding narrative, into separate and, at least on the surface, substantively very different tales that have nothing in common but an off-beat protagonist who goes by the name McEvoy. Why not call it a collection of short stories? Early on, however, the author assures us that the seven adventures are fraught with shared meaning and much less tenuously connected than they seem at first glance.

Following Impey's lead, I began reading Shadow World while keeping a close eye on McEvoy, suspecting that the promised continuity and topical overlap would turn out to be products of his uniquely rough-hewn working class Scottish personality, and the largely uncultivated but powerful native intelligence behind his hard-scrabble demeanor. There are certainly less potentially promising ways to tie together three twenty-six pages of fiction, fact, and fertile imagination.

It's true, moreover, that wherever the stories go -- from The Grand Canyon to Manhattan to Patagonia to the most remote and desolate parts of China to Belfast to Dublin to Southern California to Sweden above the Arctic Circle -- we find McEvoy. This Scotsman and former Merchant Mariner is nothing if not a frenetic globetrotter. The places he visits, however, where the seven stories are played out, are so far apart geographically and so different socially and culturally, that even by focusing tightly on our omnipresent protagonist, patching everything together with a credible degree of coherence surely presents us with a real challenge.

Moreover, each move from one story to another is devoid of what one might call literary connective tissue. How did McEvoy, wounded in a particularly frightening and ugly way in Arizona, get to New York with no evidence of his prior misadventure? The stories start, develop, climax, and close, and then another story begins, but how McEvoy makes the transition from one to a startlingly different other is not explained. Apparently he's well-suited to getting drunk, getting beaten up, meeting exotically beautiful women, and more or less thriving any place in the world, no matter how he got there. All this with minimal formal schooling, knowledge of only one language, English, that he speaks with the unmistakable regional accent of a Scotsman, and occupational experience that is limited to the kind of thing that comes with a working class background.

OK, so the guy carries with him an ingratiating charm, something that makes him more attractive to women and has a down-to-earth, hale-fellow-well-met appeal for men. He's also a bit mysterious, with tattoos that mark him as a man of the oceans and scars on both forearms, patterned in a way that defies ready explanation. In addition, others sense that McEvoy, in spite of his self-confident countenance and obviously quick and capacious mind, is a bit of a mystery to himself.

Eventually, the science fiction and science fact themes emerge as McEvoy meets more and more interesting and learned people. They share with him ideas that are so esoteric as to be almost uninterpretable, and he struggles to meld them into a framework that will explain why he is so alien to himself and so interesting to unusually insightful others. While his insights are striking, I don't find them satisfying. In fact, insofar as I might lend them credence, I find them quite troubling.

Shadow World is an interesting and well-written book that I enjoyed reading and will recommend to others. The author, a professional astronomer, brings to bear a unique perspective on the nature of life and the character of the universe. I may not be happy with the way the book ends or with the nature of the literary connective tissue that makes it a novel rather than a collection of disparate short stories, but that's a purely subjective judgment, not due to lack of skill, insight, or information on the part of the author. After you've read the book, ask yourself if McEvoy really is one of a kind.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Blowing 20 May 2014
By Steve Reina - Published on
In the closing lines of Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes as follows:

"Let the word go out to every John and Jonathan. There is more light to day than dawn. The sun is but a morningstar!"

Though poets and writers of course are aware of this "more light to day" that Thoreau spoke of pitifully few are able to raise our eyes that we may see it.

Not surprisingly author Chris Impey is one such person who can help us see this "more light." Until now Impey has been best known for his nonfiction popular science works like Before the Beginning and How it Ends. Because of his deep understanding about the deep architecture of reality and his ability to convey it Impey is more than equipped to write a book probing Thoreau's "more light to day."

In this wonderful novel Impey introduces us to Ian McEvoy a Scottish ex patriot who we join in a series of adventures. Following McEvoy we ostensibly go from the Arizona desert to New York to somewhere in China to South America to Ireland to southern California to northern Sweden. As we move from area to the next we consistently follow McEvoy in his true journey: understanding that there are profound puzzles built into the fabric of nature the end...just what is his place is in all of that.

Because revealing McEvoy's final insight would be unfair to new readers let's just say that what you'll find in that final insight will perhaps give you a better sense of what Thoreau meant when he said "more light to day than dawn."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cogito, ergo sum 9 May 2014
By D. Roberts - Published on
Ian McElvoy is your typical run-of-the-mill Scotsman who is endowed with an inquisitive mind and a tendency to black out from time to time. SHADOW WORLD is a set of snapshots of his life @ different stages. He has a knack for encountering some rather eccentric people and some of these include a preacher, a mysterious Navajo, a Philosopher, an artist and a musician.

The bulk of the rest of the people he meets are all scientists and they run-the-gamut of scientific inquiry. They include paleontologists, anthropologists, biochemists, an epidemiologist and a physicist. The physicist (Zell) is the most colorful character in the book as he has the personality traits of the late Richard Feynman and the career path and mannerisms of Kip Thorne. Oh, and he also teaches @ CALTECH to boot!

As a layman, Ian is even allowed to tag along on scientific expeditions & help out established & well credentialed scientists. As is the case with Seven-Tenths: Love, Piracy, and Science at Sea (LeapSci), everything is all fun & games until everything goes kahooey.

This is a book that one must experience rather than merely read. It is something of an allegory of life itself and as such it brought to mind Big Fish with a science fiction twist. For those who are scoring @ home, there are allusions to the ideas of the French Philosopher Renes Descartes and the legendary Princeton physicist Freeman J. Dyson. For those who are not scoring @ home, it's a book that is still fun for all.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In part a realistic variation on "The Matrix" theme 23 May 2014
By Dennis Littrell - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I know that Chris Impey (Professor of astronomy and cosmology at the University of Arizona, by the way) had a lot of fun writing this novel because it was so much fun to read. He explains how and why he wrote it in the Preface: …twenty-five hundred words a day, twenty-eight chapters; basically just write and don’t look back; put it in a drawer for six years and then take another look; and then edit. I used to write like that. I think I did some of my best fiction just winging it on a daily basis and letting my imagination carry me.

The shadow in the title is an allusion to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in which prisoners from birth see only the shadows of things and therefore believe that the shadows are reality. But on a deeper level Professor Impey’s novel explores in a psychologically compelling way what it would seem like to really live in a world in which we are all just simulations produced by some superior intelligence. There would be incongruities, gaps between events, memories lost and some kind of inexplicable strangeness in how life unfolds. What I found most interesting in Impey’s treatment is the subtle way in which we are gradually drawn into this world and the realization that something is not quite right. The sophisticated reader may realize that the protagonist’s memory problems are software glitches or something similar. Everything is not quite as it seems.

The novel begins in the southwestern desert of the United States as Impey’s hero, Scotsman Ian McEvoy, who is 19-years-old, meets Night Owl, a Native American desert guide and mystic. This is about the Native Americans of the Southwest, the Hopi and their ways. Part of this is a short course in a way of life that is mostly gone. This is an adoration of Canyon country. It is vivid and atmospheric including a Mormon named “Jessop” and a naturally air-conditioned Hopi building. Here’s a bit of the first person narrative as McEvoy tries to fathom his guide, Night Owl:

“’Are we lost?’ ‘No.’ He looks around like he’s in an unfamiliar place. ‘But we are very close to the underworld. The energy unsettles me.’ I try to feel what he’s feeling but can’t. No doubt my finer senses are dulled by lifelong ingestion of sugar and fried food.”

Note, incidentally, that McEvoy doesn’t recall how he got there.

This is adventure number one. Six more follow. In each of the adventures there is danger and a mesmerizing woman with whom McEvoy becomes intimately entangled, or perhaps just tantalized. Most of the adventures involve McEvoy in something either rigorously scientific such as an archaeological dig or something cultural such as a tour with a controversial (and beautiful!) female artist. McEvoy’s personality is apparently quite winning and his skills impressive despite his lack of formal education since people keep inviting him to join them in what it is they are doing. McEvoy is a two-fisted hero when he needs to be and a passionate lover of not only women but of knowledge. He is my kind of hero. 

A nice feature is the scientific discussions that McEvoy has with the scientists he meets in his adventures. Since Professor Impey is the author of a number of popular scientific books you can be sure that the science is real. Another nice feature is the sharp, witty dialogue.

Strange to say as I was reading this I became more and more estranged from the earlier chapters, so much so that I actually read the first chapter again. I think this had something to do with my identification with Impey’s hero.

Another way to look at this novel and interpret it is to imagine that McEvoy, a denizen of the future, has been given a choice of virtual realities in which to live. He has many choices as everyone has. This is the one he has chosen. It is not just a life of pure pleasure but a life of adventure and challenges and a life that is seemingly worth living in which the high points and the good experiences outnumber the bad.

—Dennis Littrell, author of “[...]” and other works.
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