Don’t tell my hipster friends (they’re all engrossed in Proust, I’m sure), but I’ve been on a young adult fiction binge lately. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, was brilliant–and entirely deserving of its recent popularity. Catching Fire was a decent sequel, but I took a break with Cory Doctorow’s latest novel of teenage gamers and badass gold farmer unions in China, For the Win, before jumping back into the Hunger Games trilogy with the final book, Mockingjay (brilliant again, and so completely unexpectedly dark that even I, who am masquerading as a grown up, was a little shocked). Beautiful writing, though–that last chapter gave me chills.
In any case, it is now once again time to get back to the indie authors I’ve been neglecting this month–starting with Jeff Thomason’s YA SF novel (how’s that for gratuitous acronyms?) The Scientific Method, A Wandering Koala Tale.
I think young adult novels are incredibly important–I’m a history student, but I try to proselytize science as well as science fiction to the young’uns whenever I can (somewhere in the multiverse, it’s comforting to think, there’s a version of me studying physics… or cryptozoology…). Which is why I’m thrilled to feature Thomason’s book here on the blog, such as it is.
Jeff Thomason is a writer, graphic designer, and really excellent cartoonist. The Scientific Method, a short book with lovely black-and-white illustrations, is premised on this quote, the book’s epigraph:
“No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.” –Jacob Bronowski, British Mathematician and Scientist
Thomason’s book is an engaging read–starting with a brief prologue on the four terrible and powerful forces driving the universe: gravitation, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. Of course, when you add humans into the mix, you get the fifth fundamental force: politics. Here’s the book description:
Wait–what? Scientists aren’t all knights in white lab coats? Ye gads! The horror! Here’s the book description:
He’s done it! Brent Jakes has discovered the Unified Field Theory, the Holy Grail of Physics! It will provide unlimited energy, new medical breakthroughs, and other advances only dreamed of before. There’s just one on catch: it’ll cost one man his fame, another his career, and a third his company.
When politics and science mix, it’s not pretty. Only the intervention of a silent wanderer can stop them.
Thomason’s prose is clean and colorful, but not condescending (the absolute worst mistake a young adult author could ever make). His dialogue, however, is stand-out. In fact, I’m pretty sure this brief exchange must come from a real classroom somewhere:
“The Unified Field Theory is like the Holy Grail for science. Physicists since Einstein have been searching for it without success.”
“Like Monty Python.”
Or this one:
“Benjamin Franklin? Is he your dad?”
“No, no, he lived hundreds of years ago.”
“So… is he your grandpa then?”
You get the point. So let’s sum things up:
Recommendation: The Scientific Method may be a dry-sounding title for young adult fiction, but, as the kids are saying these days, the writing is at times LOL, imho. That means laugh-out-loud, btdubs. Take it from a selective connoisseur of 8th-grade reading level fiction: Thomason gets my highest recommendation.
Reading Time: 2,000+ “locations” on the Kindle means… 200 pages in paper form? In any case, this is a weekend read for a college student avoiding academic journals, and 1-2 weeks for the younger set.
Availability: You can find The Scientific Method on Amazon or Smashwords, in ebook (oooh–sciencey!) or physical format. Here’s the link to the Amazon page, because, as we all know, I’m fully in the megacorporation’s thrall: http://www.amazon.com/Scientific-Method-Wandering-Koala-ebook/dp/B002DGSMSQ (ebook is $3.96)
For the older crowd, I’ll take this time to recommend The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, by Jacob Bronowski (remember the epigraph?). Maybe he has some scientific insight into the minds of particularly creative indie authors. Or maybe he’s just that rare individual who was at once a mathematician, biologist, historian, and poet. Can someone say “Renaissance Man,” please?