Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Physicist Robert Strong really isn’t having a lot of luck. He’d been working on dark matter experiments and seemed to be getting close to getting results until the lab was suddenly shut down. His girlfriend leaves him, and he almost dies while hiking in the Tibetan mountains. During this ordeal he has strange visions and is unconscious for several days before awakening in a Tibetan monastery, where the abbot seems to know something of what he saw.
Returning home to Scotland to stay with his mother, his visions seem to continue, as does his bad luck as the man he saw as a surrogate father figure, Peter Casimir, dies. Like a gift from above, the head of the mysterious Observation Research Board offers him a hundred thousand pounds to spend a week at CERN to sabotage an experiment that he claims could destroy the world.
McGugan’s thrilling debut novel has been nominated for BFS Best Newcomer, and it’s easy to see why. It is filled with lots of physics, dark matter and terribly clever-sounding stuff. Halfway through, while Strong is working at CERN, things take a change for the esoteric, and suddenly he finds himself experiencing strange things. Deep physics is replaced with deep philosophy, as Peter races against time to save the world, the woman he loves and his long-lost father. Peopled with great characters, a really interesting take on the boundaries between life and death as well as theoretical physics that will go above the heads of many (or at least it went over this reviewer’s head), this is a truly great read. This proves McGugan as an author to watch, and I expect we will see nothing but great things from her.