Okay, I am in the middle of Massie’s “Catherine the Great”ANDMurakami’s “IQ84”. It’s over nine hundred pages EACH, people. Expect my reviews next year. So, taking a little break, I gave a quick read to Alan Lightman’s little novella, “Mr g”.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering where you can find a novel that combines poetry, science fiction, theology and astrophysics, then look no further- “Mr g” by Alan Lightman combines all those themes in a short novel that will have you nostalgic for skipping school with your physic club friends – having geeky conversations in a beat up old blue Datsun – while on the way to see Brian Green talk about string theory at UPENN. (Um, maybe that is just me.)
Author Alan Lightman is my dream guy: a poet, a novelist and a theoretical physicist – he was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment in both science and the humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Oh, and he also builds schools inCambodiain his spare time, I mean COME ON. Author of “Einstein’s Dreams” (a favorite), his new novel is about the unnamed deity (known only by the title as “Mr g”) who got bored and decided to start making things- you know- like the Universe.
Bored with the Void, bickersome Aunt Penelope and tenderhearted Uncle Deva his only companions through Nothingness, the genius Nephew casts about in his infinite imagination for change, form, and meaning. Seized by an idea, he creates time—past, present, and future—suddenly injecting structure and motion into the “endless sleep” they’ve previously inhabited. From time follows space and energy, the creation of universes, one of which Nephew favors, calling it Aalam-104729 (after “the ten thousandth prime number in base ten”), endowing it with laws of symmetry, relativity, and causality, and filling it with matter, so that it begins to develop life. Aunt and Uncle are thrilled with their new plaything, yet the contrarian Belhor urges God to let the animate creatures have free will, thereby permitting great suffering among them, but also joy. While Belhor insists that the creatures live mean, insignificant lives, and that good and evil are relative but necessary, Mr g sees a grandeur and beauty in their individuality. Above all, the immortal characters are changed by their brush with the enterprising, however doomed, mortals, bringing this elucidating treatment of quantum physics to an affecting, hopeful conclusion.
Lightman’s language use is great, as to when Mr g then begins spinning out billions of universes — “throbbing spheres, distended ellipsoids, gyrating cosmoses thrashing with energy.” and the universes leaves the Void trembling with “rumbles and shrieks and sharp popping noises” which annoy his elder relatives to no end.
While Mr g has its comic side, Lightman is fundamentally serious, not satirical, and his awed amazement at the universe is contagious. Ranging through space and time, he puts Earth and its residents in their place without denying the importance of even the shortest and most limited lives.
With echoes of Calvino (read Cosmi Comics, it will change your life), Rushdie, and Saramago, combining science, theology, and moral philosophy, “Mr g” is a stunningly imaginative work that celebrates the tragic and joyous nature of existence on the grandest possible scale.
The novel might be too imaginative for readers who want to stick to the facts and too blasphemous for those who want their religion undiluted, but those who find science, poetry and religion a palatable mix will be delighted.