"The God Particle"
(Reviewed by Pat Neuman AUG 26, 2006)
“You know what I think is the most fascinating outcome of particle physics? The realization that our physical world is so different from the way we perceive it.”
If you’re a “science junky” like me, you will be intrigued by Richard Cox’s novel, The God Particle. Starting with a mystery half-way around the world, hooked by some interesting science, augmented by sincere and profound discussion of how science’s philosophy intersects with religion in asking the big questions, and then being pulled into various lives of the protagonists, this book picks up speed and races by.
Steve Keeley, a young executive visiting Zurich, hurtles out of a third story window and escapes certain death with only a fractured skull. His life is somehow saved through a miraculous brain surgery. Coming back home to Los Angeles to recover, he finds himself plagued by perceptions of a mysterious “field” and burgeoning powers to see things and know what other people are thinking. He also feels paranoid and thinks that he is being watched. Adding to his suspicions is the fact that he is unable to locate the doctor or hospital where he was treated and no billing has been submitted to his employer. He realizes that his life and perspective are changed forever and seeks help because he thinks he is having hallucinations or may be going crazy, until it occurs to him that “… perhaps insanity is reality no one else can see.”
Meanwhile in Texas, Mike McNair is a young physicist who likes to ponder the gigantic questions of science and their philosophy. He is in charge of a group of physicists working on an independently financed super collider looking for the “Higgs boson” (also known as the “God particle”) an actual sub-atomic particle theorized to verify and help explain a lot of elusive secrets of the universe.
Between the twisted paths that bring these two characters together, the plot veers off into an improbable, albeit intriguing, possibility; that of, the universe being a living organism with a consciousness. Fortunately, this book is also off-set by some fascinating and easily understood explanations of the awesome questions being asked in physics. Cox says “I wrote this novel, in part, to address the religion vs. science debate. I think it’s an interesting discussion, and one that’s far from being resolved. Unfortunately there seems to be a gross misunderstanding of science among the general population, about what the scientific method actually is… Science and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. You can believe in God and still respect the discoveries of science, or you can be a champion of science and respect the spiritual beliefs of others. None of us have the ultimate answers, even though many people believe they do.”
“The most intriguing aspect of this subject is how different the two areas of thought really are. Having faith, as far as I understand it, is the idea of accepting something as truth without supporting evidence. And when that evidence does come -- in the form of visions, appearances, or emotions -- it cannot be independently verified or repeated. I do not mean to imply that these religious experiences don’t happen, or are somehow false -- only that they can’t be empirically proven. But that’s just what science is: proving ideas. With the scientific method, you observe a phenomenon, you guess why it might be happening, you make predictions about future occurrences of the phenomenon, and then run tests to see if your predictions come true. It’s a painstaking process that has produced a remarkable and comprehensive understanding of the world around us… We like to tell stories about strange or coincidental events that happen to us on a regular basis. For instance, when I drive to work in the morning, I often feel like the traffic lights are conspiring against me. I always complain to my cubicle neighbor when I hit every red light, but I never tell him when all the signals are green. I know if I documented my morning commute every day, I would dispel the idea that the traffic lights are conspiring against me. But where is the fun in that? What would I have to complain about?”
Cox skillfully uses metaphors that make the scientific principles understandable without having to totally sacrifice the real science. These explanations are further enhanced by some sincere discussions such as:
“I don’t know how much I can tell you about the collective reality thing, though. We certainly haven’t found it… I guess the idea is analogous to… how the universe is just a bunch of jiggling particles bathed in force fields. Since there are only a few kinds of particles… and all exist in our same universe…they make up everything…… and affect each other in some small way, then we’re all part of this collective reality (or web of existence)... The difference between physics… and more metaphysical ideas… is evidence. I can prove that two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom make up water. But I can’t prove that my mind and yours can influence each other at great distances…”
But back to the synopsis: The story line follows a path you might have predicted about mad scientists wanting to leash infinite power and take over the universe, etc., but there are some human-scale characters and real-life side plots developed as well. There are also some nice characters you will want to care about, a romance and even some gratuitous sex. Some of Mike’s “friends” and colleagues are sick and mean spirited, so when the “set-up” comes and things are building to a head, it makes you want to groan at how devious and nasty the problems they create will soon become.
Of course, the “bad guy(s)” are REALLY bad, and the climax seemingly preposterous, but coming on top of the questions so thoughtfully discussed, who can complain about that? After being swept along on the precarious whirlwind ride of this novel, you will probably not mind suspending disbelief further.
- Amazon readers rating: from 20 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The God Particle at author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Official website for Richard Cox
- The Internet Writing Journal interview with Richard Cox
- Who Dunnit reviw of The God Particle
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About the Author:
Richard Cox was born in Odessa, Texas. He spent much of his childhood in the Lone Star State and also lived in New Orleans and Williston, North Dakota. His father was in the oil business, so the family traveled quite a bit. In 1992 he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Texas A&M University.
Richard has been writing fiction since he was eleven years old. To date he has written over forty short stories.
He currently resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma and works as part of the Hilti, Inc web team