Book review: Final Theory

I just finished Final Theory by Mark Alpert. It was not a very good book.

The novel’s a science-based thriller with the premise: what if Einstein had secretly found the elusive unified theory that explains everything (gravity and quantum mechanics) and now dangerous forces were after it? Alpert writes for Scientific American magazine so the book is full of proper science; many of the main characters are physicists or science writers. He does an excellent job of explaining a great deal of science, and of ensuring his characters use it when they can.

However it’s got a pretty clichéd plot. “Regular” people on the run. The psychopathic, unstoppable hitman. The evil genius behin it all. The mindless government agency with one good-hearted agent. A traitor. An ex-girlfriend. An autistic child. Ludicrously unlikely escapes, one after another, with the help of mind-bogglingly credulous strangers. Repeated strokes of luck. Forced dialogue. Even the science suffers when you realise that characters that have Ph.D.s are speaking to each other in ways they never would just for the sake of reader explanation:

“You remember what a neutrino is, right?”

“Sure. It’s like the electron’s kid brother. A particle with no charge and very little mass.”

I was longing for a great science novel. It had lots of great science, but it was not a great novel. However, it’s only Alpert’s first book, so I really hope he keeps going.