Imagine a quantum physics textbook with a plot-line woven through it. Or a mystery novel with highlights from a quantum physics textbook thrown in. Either way, the resulting book is Robert Kroese’s novel, Schrödinger’s Gat.
The main character of the novel, Paul Bayes, is the narrator. But he’s also “writing” the book, telling his story to the reader. Schrödinger’s Gat begins with Bayes telling about his suicide attempt, which is foiled by a young woman he’s never seen, calling out to him right before he kills himself. Then the girl runs away and by the third page of the book, we have a chase scene!
When this girl, whom Bayes befriends, later disappears, the mystery begins. However, this isn’t your average Whodunnit mystery novel. As I mentioned, there’s also a quantum physics primer woven through the story (the tagline of Schrödinger’s Gat is “A Quantum Physics Noir Thriller”). The girl, Tali, has the ability to predict tragedies and prevent them from happening. I won’t go into how, exactly, (because that’s what a large portion of the book deals with), but it is all based on Science! Crazy, crazy Science. To help the reader, Bayes quotes from a (I assume) fictitious book titled “Fate and Consciousness.” There are a number of other books and “online articles” quoted as well, having to do with fate, light waves vs. particles, deism, quantum mechanics, and, of course, Schrödinger’s alive/dead furry friend.
Having never taken quantum mechanics in college, Schrödinger’s Gat was mind-blowing. I had heard the premise of Schrödinger’s cat before, but not until this book did I actually know what it was all about. (And if you aren’t 100% sure, either, this book is for you.) Kroese has taken an extremely complex subject and put it in small, digestible portions, clearly explaining some of the basic ideas of quantum mechanics. Not only did I find the novel entertaining with a fresh idea, but I came away from it actually feeling as though I’d learned a lot. It’s a rare novel that can offer that.
The premise of the narrator “writing” the book was one of my biggest complaints. Kroese chose to have Bayes “write” the book in present tense, as if Bayes was talking through it as he goes. For example: “So I go after her. Partly I’m mad and partly I’m curious.” “So I’m chasing her down the steps[.]” “I’m faster, and I get [to the cab] just as she’s closing the door. I hold the door open and slide in. . . .” “I’m about to say something, but I hold off. . . .” I understand in a chase scene, that quick, in-the-moment style works. But when we’re reading about Bayes reading Wikipedia or conversing with his mother on the phone, it gets a bit tedious. I always find first-person, present tense tedious. Maybe it’s just me.
The other problem with Bayes as the “author” of book, is that when he wants to do an information dump, quoting large portions from other sources, he (Bayes) brackets them with things like “It’s not vital that you understand this stuff–SKIP THIS PART” and “OK, START READING HERE AGAIN.” Once there’s even “You can probably skip this excerpt if abstract philosophical discussions bore you” (pg. 42).
I’ll start by saying I get it, I do. Kroese wants to make Bayes sound like he’s just coming across this information for the first time, but realizes not everyone who reads “his” book will care about some of the stuff he’s trying to wrap his head around. As a reader of Kroese’s book, however, I didn’t skip a single thing, and I found it a bit annoying that Bayes kept telling me to.
My biggest complaint about the book, though, was something I never thought I’d find myself dealing with: I hated the font.
No, seriously, the width of the letters was too thin. Weird, I know, but I kept feeling like I had to squint to read it, and then it still didn’t come into focus. However, when chunks of text were quoted, that font was a normal one and easily read. When it comes to recommending the book (and I do), I’d say get the digital version instead of the paperback. I have both versions, and the digital fonts aren’t plagued by skinny letters.
Neither of those complaints would keep me from recommending this book, however (though I would pick the Kindle version over the print because of the font). The device that Kroese has created to move the story along, while at the same time explaining the basic principles of such a confusing topic as quantum physics, is original and fun. And as Bayes tries to understand this field of science, he frequently voiced the “Huh? . . . Oh!” that I was feeling. It was great to have a partner in learning. Having said that, this isn’t a blanket recommendation for everyone. If you are the type of person who WOULD find abstract philosophical discussions a bore, then maybe this isn’t the book for you. Or, at least, thanks to Bayes, you know which sections to skip.
Full disclosure: you will find my name in the Acknowledgments section of Schrödinger’s Gat. I have been an avid reader of Kroese’s for a few years, and when he used a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of this book, I happily laid down my money.