Today’s topic is Mobius Dick by Andrew Crumey.
I have to admit it took me some time to digest this novel. The author presents the story through different threads, one in our present day, the story of John Ringer, and by using a fiction book technique, it presents corresponding elements few decades earlier, in the life of Schrodinger and Hinze. The author is a physics writer, a writer which combines principles from physics into literature. His story is based on different realities, parallel worlds, which begin to interfere.
The main character, John Ringer, an usual physics teacher, who has a linger for his lost love Helen, is caught in the wish of finding her again, only to find one of her replicas, a Helen which is very similar to his own, but yet completely different. The principle the book is based on is Schrodinger’s cat, a cat which is simultaneously dead and alive, until we open the box. At this point, the universe splits into two different ones, one in which the cat is dead and one in which the cat is alive. Every choice that we make, it opens up different realities, or different universes. The vacuum machine thins the boundaries between this realities, making them interfere.
The threads of the story are always interconnected, Ringer’s Helen is depicted in the past as Clara, a woman which Hinze exploits, and later is caught in a sanatorium for people with memory disorders, but also as Laura, an investigating journalist.
The author uses concepts from the fantastic novel, in which the character experiences some extraordinary events, which are completely unusual and supernatural. Ringer doesn’t know what is happening, although he has many of the pieces of the puzzle laying beside him. He begins to see glimpses of his alternate realities, meets his alter, and different versions of the Helen he once knew. He doesn’t understand though, and is lost in a fight he can’t possibly win. The confusion is primary generated by the interconnection with a different reality, one that cannot exist there.
The effect of the realities beginning to interaction is the mental disorder that doctor Blake is investigating. Here, the author exploits a more dark theme, where the mad scientist wants to do anything to prove his theory. Doctor Blake imposes false memories into the patients, confusing them and making them believe what she wants, only to prove her concepts. The doctor is willing to step on dead bodies just to prove that she is right, and for the good of the future patients, no matter the consequences of the current ones, which are being used for the greater benefit of science. Mental manipulation is present in everything doctor Blake does to her patients, unknowing that the hallucinations and memory loss are consequences of interfering with an alternate past or an alternate future.
Ringer and Clara prove to be mere consequences of some past actions. In the end they return to their zero moment, being sent in past before their birth moment. This only shows that their sole creation is the result of an experiment like Schrodinger’s cat, they are present in a reality but gone in another. Their whole life is the result of an action, and a folding of a specific created reality.
The question mark that the author rises is: what is the meaning of life and the world we are in ? Are we determined in this universe, or are we just random events, consequences of a different experiment, one in which we were created, while other versions of ourselves are somewhere as well ?
The book itself it’s from an universe in which some things can never be true: a female prime minister, or an actor elected as president, or some people that are famous in our universe, like Thomas Mann, never achieved glory.
Andrew Crumey doesn’t write for the uninitiated, and it presents a story full of physics and mistery, hard to digest, but worthwhile. It touches deep human questions and feelings, presented from a cold blood scientist’s point of view.