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Improbable: A Novel by Adam Fawer
Review by Gayle Surrette
William Morrow Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060736771
Date: 01 February, 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In Improbable, David Caine has hit bottom. He?s recently been diagnosed with epilepsy. This might not be all that bad, except that several bad seizures have left him afraid to teach his classes in statistical probability. And since he can?t take the traditional treatments, the test drug could turn him into a schizophrenic. He can?t concentrate, the rent is due and he hasn?t been to Gamblers Anonymous for quite a while. So, what can he do but risk his last cent and the 5K he has borrowed from a Russian mafia boss on a last hand of cards. I think you can guess what happens ? David is in trouble, big time. And there are no easy answers even when you can sift through a decision tree and choose the best course available because when you win someone else is going to lose.

I started off reading this book after perusing the marketing sheet and the cover blurbs. The hype was so far fetched I couldn?t believe the book would live up to it. Well, it doesn?t but then no book could, but Improbable comes close. The book harks back to the old style science fiction , you know the ones with the incredible science info dumps as a character explains the basic concepts to one of the other characters so the reader can understand what?s happening. It?s an old technique and fun to read but when a professor is explaining Schrodinger?s Theory to David Caine, who is a graduate student in statistical probability ? well if he doesn?t understand that concept by now he?d never have gotten his BA, let alone be in graduate school. But if you can get beyond the implausible info dumps and let yourself go, you?ll have a good time.

The novel starts slow, introducing you to all the characters but before you realize what?s happening it?s developed into a page-turner you don?t want to put down. There are about seven plot threads that circle in on themselves as the characters move through their various decision points until we reach the end of the book.

Highly recommended with the caveat that this is for people who can live with science play and don?t expect every bit of science to be ?right?.

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