In Free Fall by Julie Zeh

April 29, 2010
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In Free Fall
Julie Zeh

Hardcover/336 pages
ISBN: 978-0385526425
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". . . a serious book from a talented author with a flair for integrating the fantastic, the mundane and the scientific in a rich stew of human relations."

Oskar cannot forgive Sebastian for deserting him and the possibility of a Nobel prize for a wife and child and the esoteric realm of physics. Sebastian felt he had no other choice. It was find his own way and his own life or forever be Oskar’s shadow. Once a month, Oskar comes from Switzerland to visit Sebastian and his family in Freiberg for dinner.

On one particular visit, Oskar wants to chastise Sebastian for his article explaining the motives of a serial killer in terms of the Many-Worlds Interpretation of the time and space. Sebastian, confident on his home ground amidst his family, is unwilling to concede the point. It is, he tells Oskar, his life to live.

Things begin to unravel when Sebastian’s wife Maike and his son Liam go on separate holidays. Maike goes on a cycling holiday in Italy and Sebastian will take Liam to scout camp. He looks forward to returning to a quiet house to work, but ends up in the midst of a kidnapping and murder.

Detective Superintendent Schilf has been called to Freiberg to solve the murder of a decapitated cyclist who could be involved in a scandal at a local hospital. Rita Skura, his one time pupil, is on the case, but is asked to step aside. Instead Schilf, who is losing his grasp on reality, decides to take the case of Liam’s kidnapping that wasn’t.

Any reader not familiar with the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge of physics will find much of Julie Zeh’s tale a bit difficult to follow. The cutaways to different characters are a bit disorienting as are the explanations of the Many-Worlds Interpretation. It is not for the easily distracted or the average reader. However, In Free Fall is also a mystery wrapped in the quantum collisions of three people: Oskar, Sebastian and Schilf.

Zeh’s fluid prose and eye for detail are as much a wonder as her grasp of quantum physics and her ability to disgorge vast amounts of data. It seems at first glance that the mystery and the physics are unrelated; however, they are all connected at a deeper level. The descriptions transcend the ordinary and this metaphorical psychological ménage à trois offers a many-layered perspective that is unforgettable. In Free Fall is not the kind of book to be scanned or read at the beach, but a serious book from a talented author with a flair for integrating the fantastic, the mundane and the scientific in a rich stew of human relations.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell


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