on 13 August 2015
My one liner: Some of the passages can be a little jarring. But you need to ignore that, as the author has attempted a remarkable feat here, in attempting to unify the karmic mysticism of Kabbalah with the undiscovered potential of quantum mechanics. With some substantial success.
The author Jane Jensen is a computer scientist and computer games author, so I was optimistic that she would make a good stab at exploring, in fictional form, the possibility that future research in quantum physics will draw us to understand the past, present and future of human destiny. And then I read the awful opening paragraph of the book.
“Denton Wyle was seriously re-examining his choices...his back pressed hard against the cabin of the rescue ship as sea spray slapped him on the cheeks like an outraged Englishman...” Eh ? Come again. But please, persevere with this, it really is worth it.
“One of the keys to deep wisdom is that there are only a few patterns in all of creation, and they are repeated over and over. The planets revolve around the sun just as the electrons in an atom revolve around the nucleus. The whorls of a seashell mirror those of galaxies. ‘As above, so below.’ The Micro is a mirror image of the Macro....The physical world is made up of dualities: male / female, hot / cold, day / night, birth / death. There is no ‘itness’, no ‘beingness’, which does not have an opposite. Science has proven this true at every level of life: there is no particle without a corresponding antiparticle, no force without a counterbalance” From the Book of Torment by Josef Kobinski, Auschwitz 1943.
This duality forms the central thesis of the novel. The heroine and hero are University of Washington Professor Jill Talcott, a young, driven quantum physics researcher of dysfunctional family provenance, and her loyal assistant Nate Andros (yes, an amorous interest does develop, sort of). Talcott is secretively researching wave mechanics and energy pools (which the conventional scientific community finds laughable). The Department of Defense (a non-public branch of the US military-government complex) is on to her. In the form of the equally dysfunctional Lt Calder Farris, who has almost super-human physical strength, and will stop at nothing to get hold of her research.
Talcott has convinced her covetous and jealous departmental heads to let her test her wave equation on the department’s supercomputer. After the obligatory Eureka moment she and Nate discover the “One-Minus-One” wave theory which predicts the behaviour of all sub-atomic particles based on the interaction of wave-particles in higher dimensions. Their insight is that space-time itself also has a particular type of wave pattern. It is rectangular rather than sine-wave (hence crests are “plus ones” and troughs are “minus ones”). If radio waves are blasted out from an emitter in a form which exacerbates this wave pattern, in a way that makes both the crests and troughs more pronounced, then they can alter the nature of matter itself. Their initial experiments are conducted in a basement lab on rats, fruits, cultures, and since they are both present in the lab, then by definition, themselves. The results do indeed show behavioural changes in the subjects. As the power of the emissions are increased on the plus side the subjects respond positively, becoming healthier and showing greater reproductive tendencies. But increasing on the minus side has the opposite “evil effect”. What if events, which are essentially groups of waves, also can also be similarly grouped into “good” and “evil”, and be manipulated accordingly ? The scientists start to grasp the fearsome possibilities that their research could unleash if it got into the wrong hands.
Aharon Handalman is an orthodox Rabbi in Jerusalem. He has become obsessed with the life of Josef Kobinski, having found encrypted references to Kobinksi and to dangerous weapons in the ancient Torah Code. Kobinski was a Kabbalist Rabbi sent to Auschwitz with his young son during the war. Acknowledged as a brilliant scientist, Kobinski had set out his scientific theories in a manuscript during the period of his incarceration. “Kobinski believed that the highest spiritual path was to balance your sephirot [Tree of Life], to come into perfect alignment right down the center of the tree. It is like a stick…which is all crooked. It cannot go through a narrow hole. In the case of the soul, there is also a narrow opening, at the navel, and the soul must be perfectly straight and smooth…to pass through…to escape the lower five dimensions…of good and evil.” Handalman must make the journey to Poland to discover what actually happened to Kobinski in Auschwitz sixty years ago. He now regrets having tipped off his friend at Mossad about his research.
Denton Wyle is a small-time Californian journalist, living off his trust fund money. A wayward, lucky, shallow womanizer. He has drifted into writing articles on mysticism, strange occurrences, and particularly, strange disappearances. But now he thinks he has hit upon something big. A Kabbalist Rabbi called Kobinski who seemed to have mysteriously disappeared from Auschwitz. If he could just get his hands on Kobinski’s manuscript, whether by fair means or foul, he could really make a name for himself.
Farris, Talcott and Andros, Handalman, Wyle. All are motivated by a different reason to understand the consequences of Dante’s Equation, and they all know that Kobinski’s papers hold the key. And this is where the book really excels. It takes us into four parallel mini-stories, where each of the characters gets to experience those consequences first hand, to experience a world outside of his or her current existence, where the fundamental 50/50 equilibrium between good and evil of our earthly existence no longer holds.
The author has attempted a grand project here. She deserves congratulations for this effort.
A group of scholars and investigators are trying to find missing pages from an arcane manuscript - "The Book of Torment", written by Rabbi Yosef Kobinski, a Kabbalah scholar who disappeared into in a flash of light at Auschwitz. Each has their own reason for finding the document's secrets, but each knows it holds a deadly and potentially apocalyptic power.
Dante's Equation is powerfully gripping throughout the first half, following the strands of each of the characters as they close in on their on personal goals and become aware of the awesome power within their grasp. The book is well enough constructed, even perhaps a bit too neat, as you can see from very early on where each one is going and it is only really a matter of waiting for each of the threads to reach their destination and bring everything together. However, this doesn't seem to matter as the whole thing is so damn readable, the characters are interesting and although you know where it is going you really don't know what is going to happen when everyone gets there at the same time, only that the collision is sure to be apocalyptic.
Only it isn't. The book loses a little of its driving narrative force in the second half, not quite living up to the promise of the first part of the book and is much less imaginative. For the main part, this is a fascinating, intelligent and hugely entertaining read - so good that you really expect better of the ending.
on 19 July 2005
When I started this book I really enjoyed what I was reading - it struck me as being what the Da Vinci Code could have been like with a competent author at the helm. That feeling lasted until about half-way through, when the plot suddenly degenerated into a kind of pseudo-science-fiction mish-mash which was completely unbelievable on all levels - no matter what your personal feelings about parallel universes or multiverses. I persevered for another couple of chapters, and then gave up. I simply couldn't be bothered to finish it.
That said, the author's writing is excellent, with good characterisation, crisp dialogue and formidable descriptive powers. If only she could devise a sensible plot ...
on 30 January 2006
I got bored with this book, didn't like any of the main characters, found the plot line was going in an unpleasant direction, so I put it down for a couple of weeks. Ran out of other things to read so came back to it. About halfway through, it changes and got a lot more interesting. Dipped again at the end. Overall, not a bad read and worth reading more of this author.
on 2 May 2006
The "Da Vinci Code" mania has made the "occult/scientific/historical mystery" genre most popular. Unfortunately this has spawned many imitators mainly interested in sensationalism and gore, when the theorical-actual mystery part is very thin and inconsistent. And Dan Brown itself is not a very profound writer, and I think he's so much pumped-up hype.
Let's look at Dante's Equation" of Jane Jensen. The occult-scientific part is first-rate, the characters are intriguing and interesting, the plot original and chilling, and the connections she makes are not at all banal. Only one flaw: an orthodox rabbi of 1943 would talk of right brain and left brain? But the writing is exquisite, and the book a joy to read. The way the author interconnets and plays with outlandish mumbo jumbo like "the bible code" and intriguing theories like the ologtraphic Universe is enthralling. There's subtlety, here, and study, and imagination, not the "copy and paste" work made by some authors I could mention!
I recommend "Dante's Equation" by f Jane Jensen to your attention!