Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 TBR Challenge: Einstein's Dreams

As part of Wendy Crutcher's 2014 TBR Challenge, here are my brief comments on Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

For a debut work of fiction, the prose is assured and the whimsical, fantastical style is used effectively to explain the complex theories of time. The overarching theme is of Einstein working as a patent clerk drudge in Zurich, Switzerland as he dreams about his ideas about time and magnetism and physics and sends off paper after paper to journals explaining his various theories.

Each chapter is a story, which explains one aspect of time. For example, the first chapter explores time as a circle, bending back on itself, and so that the world repeats itself endlessly. In the second chapter, time is a continuous stream, with occasional split-offs from the mainstream due to disturbances lead to those rivulets curving back in time. In one chapter, an infinity of worlds with an infinite number of choices at every crossroads is explored. And so on. Mechanical vs. cosmic time, cause and effect are erratic and out-of-sync, passage of time vs. passage of events, etc. The variations are many and discussed in a lighthearted and, at times, poignant fashion.