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The God Particle : A Novel by Richard Cox
Review by Ernest Lilley
Del Rey Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0345462858
Date: 31 May, 2005 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Steve Keeley, up and coming exec at Automotive Excellence, has had a nasty shock. Actually he's had a a series of them, starting with hearing the blow by blow account of his girlfriend (who had been about to become his fianc?e) having sex while he was away on a business trip in Switzerland. Note: never leave your cellphone on the bed where you might roll over the talk button. Though that leads up to his next shock, it's trivial compared to it, but then, not much beats getting thrown out of a prostitute's third floor window to land on your head.

That Steve should have severe brain trauma isn't surprising. That he should survive might be, but the last thing he expected was to be seeing the world on a new level, perceiving reality on a level physicists only dream about, directly interacting with the field that makes up the basis for the universe. This gives him considerably more information than his ape brain can handle, and he winds up walking out of his old life to sort it all out.

At the same time, Mike McNair is the physicist in charge of the new North Texas Supercollider, a position for which older, more seasoned scientists were passed over for, and about whom the billionaire who pumped his own money into the project had a "feeling". With a little time, luck, and a lot more money, Mike is the odds on favorite to bag a Higgs Boson, the "God" particle.

Steve and Mike are on a collision course, though they haven't a clue of it, and the two men are caught up in a much larger web that will redefine reality for both. Along the way there's a fair amount of sex, romance, and interpersonal intrigue to humanize the characters and complicate their lives.

Mike may be a whiz at particle attraction, but he's out of his league when it comes to his personal attraction, especially to the smart and provocative news anchor he winds up sitting next to a plane back to Texas after a conference. And Steve's got a nearly fatally attracted coworker following him around with visions of Reality TV Romance on her mind, and the whole cell phone thing has put a damper on his wedding plans. There?s a cast of pretty twisted secondary characters to fill in the background, though they're not so twisted that we can't see their point of view. Or maybe its just me.

To add to Mike's general fun in hunting for the next breakthrough in particle physics is the sudden appearance of an aggressive Japanese physicist who is after his job...and she's not fussy about how she gets it, or the Nobel. To add to Steve's confusion he doesn't know if he's going (or gone) crazy, or if abilities like being able to read minds are a normal side effect of brain surgery. The fact that the hospital he was admitted to in Zurich doesn't seem to exist isn't any help either.

This is the third recent book I've reviewed about the Higgs Boson, the other two being John Ringo's The Looking Glass and Daniel Broderick's quirky The Godplayers I'd say that this is closer to the latter, but more down to earth by a fair margin. Of course, when changing all the physical constants in the universe lies in the balance, that's all relative.

As a collision novel, the characters individual stories move along until the inevitable train wreck at the end, and the whole thing depends more on how engaging they are than the plotline. Mike and the news anchor flirt by email, discussing the nature of reality while they draw closer and closer. Steve is pursued by the co-worker who is obsessed with him while he's trying to sort out the nature of reality and the meaning of life. Larry, Mike's best friend and worst enemy surfs porn on the net and nurses a grudge for the girl Mike "stole" from him in college, and Mike's boss gets pressured by mysterious investors to move Mike off the project. All in all, they're a pretty engaging crew, and there's enough human weakness to keep things lively. At the end of it all is the unfortunate fact that the outcome of actually finding the God Particle isn't something we can really predict, so the ending inevitably moves beyond science fiction into pure speculation -- requiring increased dosages of willful suspension of disbelief.

The whole thing definitely leans toward the techno-thriller side of things. It's a good read, and might make a good film if someone decides to option it.

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