Dec 5, 2010

IN FREE FALL by Juli Zeh

review by Material Witness

The inside of the dust jacket of In Free Fall, contains a photograph of the author staring back at the reader through piercing, ice blue eyes. Juli Zeh's stance in the photo is challenging, almost confrontational. It suggests the intellectual equivalent of the old football hooligan's chanted challenge. "Come and have a go if you think you're smart enough."

The photograph is perfect for a challenging novel. Was I smart enough for a novel focusing on a mystery centred around the relationship between two quantum physicists, one in which nothing is ever quite as it seems? Just about. I think I was in control of the narrative about 85% of the time...

But the freshness of Juli Zeh's voice and the refusal of In Free Fall - published elsewhere in the English-speaking world under the title Dark Matter -  is the charm and power of a book that is unconventional.
Sebastian and Oskar are physicists - the former teaching in university in Germany and settled into domestic life with wife and son, the latter trying to uncover the secrets of the universe in Geneva. More-than-friends in earlier days, the relationship between the two is strained and increasingly abrasive. Oskar believes Sebastian has sold out on his true calling and is essentially wasting his talents when he could be working with his old friend on joining the list of immortal physicists.

Sebastian, who carries his genius heavily, has his equilbirum disturbed by a monthly dinner with Oskar and his family, and is in a troubled state by the time he drives his son Liam to scout camp. During the journey a catastrophic event takes place that ruptures the lives of all the characters.  READ MORE....

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