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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An action-packed, truly intelligent thriller, 21 Mar 2005
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Improbable (Hardcover)
It is always a joy - and a rush - to find a truly intelligent thriller, and that is just what I found in Adam Fawer's Improbable. There's plenty of action, suspense, and even a little bit of gore here, but a strong, fascinating story is the beating heart that keeps everything else moving. There is a strong element of scientific theory at the core of this novel, which I as a bona fide nerd delighted in, but those with nonmathematical minds should have no fear, as Fawer takes great pains to explain everything in such a way that it is understandable. For those who enjoy ruminating upon quantum physics, probability theory, biochemistry, and determinism vs. chaos theory, Improbable offers a bounty of speculations regarding Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Schrodinger's Cat, and - most of all - Laplace's Demon. The latter is in fact what this novel is all about, for its main character becomes the very personification of Laplace's Demon.
You would think David Caine has enough problems already, as he has devoted his life to the academic study of statistics (but I kid my statistician cohorts). Actually, Caine has not taught in over a year, ever since he began having seizures attributed to temporal lobe epilepsy. When we first meet him, he is pursuing his gambling vice at a shady Russian game room, losing big on a sure-thing bet just before suffering a major seizure. He wakes up very much in debt to his Russian Mafioso friends and helpless against the mentally debilitating effects of his seizures. His doctor recommends an experimental drug, as nothing else can possibly help him. Having a schizophrenic identical twin makes Caine fear a possible break with reality, but he figures he has little to lose and volunteers for the new treatment - which definitely has an effect on him. He soon finds himself seeing possible futures at any given time, a power which comes in handy when you're trying to evade Russian gambling debt collectors as well as elite forces of the NSA and FBI. Unknowingly, David has become the successful test case of a scientist trying to make Laplace's Demon a reality - an individual who can see and know past, present, and future.
A rogue CIA agent with a past even her employers know nothing about is put on David's trail. Nava has her own agenda, but she ends up becoming David's greatest ally, using her expertise to help keep him alive. As David grows into his new-found power to determine the best course of action available in order to achieve the most desired result, he reestablishes some control over his own future. That actually makes his life harder than ever, as the best possible outcome sometimes requires sacrifice and pain. The thrill of the chase occupies the first two-thirds or so of the story, after which point things slow down a little bit, but there are plenty of fireworks left over for the closing chapters.
Fawer makes great use of scientific ideas in order to lay the foundation of this intricate yet tightly wound story; he does go a little bit textbook from time to time, but such detail is necessary in order to sell the science fiction aspects of the story completely. I must admit I seemed to miss the occurrence of one important plot twist (which may be my own fault), but the rest of the novel was meticulously laid out. Only in the final chapters does one get a true appreciation of the vast interconnectedness of everything in the novel, but it is the almost non-stop action of Caine's flight from his pursuers that impresses itself upon you the most. Fawer is a talented writer, probably one of the few people on earth who can actually make statistics and probability exciting. In my opinion, Improbable is one of the most impressive thrillers to come along in quite a while.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent page-turner, 6 Jan 2007
A. T. Morton "bigalis43" (Saitama Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Improbable (Hardcover)
I have to completely agree with the review by Daniel Jolley, This is an extremely entertaining book which grips you from the start and never lets-up until the ending. The way that Mr. Fawer tidies up all the loose ends so that even those who were working against Caine, but who sympathised with him, were somehow taken care of, i.e. Crowe, shows a very thoughtful nature and an extremely convoluted thinker behind this book. It really is a 'must-read' and much more cerebral about quantum physics than 'Timeline' was.
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Improbable by Adam Fawer (Hardcover - Jan 2005)
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