Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Flicker Men, by Ted Kosmatka (author), Keith Szarabajka (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, July 2015

Eric Argus is a physicist who was doing important work when he had a breakdown. It was spectacular, culminating in a drunken episode in which he broke his sister's hand, and he's made himself unemployable.


One friend, a senior executive at a research company called Hanson, in the Boston area, offers him a job. It's the standard Hanson deal: three months to do whatever research he wants, and then at his first quarterly review, the company will decide if they'll keep him on and continue to fund his research. He tells his friend, Jeremy, that he's wasting the company's money, but Jeremy insists, and Eric isn't really in a position to say no.

After weeks of just hanging around with other researchers and assisting in their work, he decides to redo a famous experiment, the electron double slit experiment. It's been repeated many times before, and he gets the same result--but this time he asks one more question. Can animals other than humans collapse the probability wave?

It's a question whose answer has implications far beyond what he anticipates. When Eric and the colleagues who worked with him publish their results, they're suddenly under attack from all sides. Pressure to call off  their research. Bribes to do something different. Threats. There are the obvious sources of resistance, but there's also something else. Someone else. Someone with a lot of money, who apparently has been taking a quiet interest in Eric and his research for years.

For Eric to understand what's going on, he needs to go back to the quantum physics research that shook his emotional stability and his sanity before.

Kosmatka leads us easily from what initially seems like a psychological novel of a man recovering, or maybe not recovering, from a mental health crisis, into a novel of intrigue and and cosmological conflict. A few times I found myself asking, what just happened there? I never stopped listening; I had to know what was going on. Eric, his colleagues, and his and their problems and challenges are quite believably built up, and it's easy (and fun!) to go along for the unexpected ride.


I bought this audiobook.