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Adam Felber – Schrödinger’s Ball

January 17, 2008

8. Schrödinger’s Ball by Adam Felber (2006)

Length: 245 pages

Genre: Humor

Started: 15 January 2008
Finished: 17 January 2008

Summary: This story centers around four friends: Arlene, who’s depressed over the recent death of her cat; Deb, who is chronically undepressed and is capable of hour-long orgasms; Grant, a geek who’s desperately and hopeless in love with Deb; and Johnny, who accidentally shot himself in the head but may or may not be dead. Also improbably involved are the President of Montana, Bernie the schizophrenic prophet of the Lord and Brenda the homeless counter-historian, the world’s largest molecule (available in keychain- and belt-buckle-form), Dr. Schrödinger himself (who keeps rambling on about the universe, inviting himself over, and stealing garlic bread), and a strange meowing coming from an unlocateable source.

Review: I really enjoyed this book on a number of levels. It’s incredibly funny – to the right reader (I was laughing out loud within the first four pages). You don’t need to be an expert on physics or even on science to enjoy this book, although I suspect it’s similar to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels – the more you know about the subject matter (in that case, British literature; in this case, quantum physics and other science), the more of the inside jokes you will be able to appreciate. For an example, if you find the following quotes funny, you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the book:

Johnny’s first thought after the noise and the blood started was how incredibly cliché it was to have one’s gun go off while one was cleaning it. Then he bled to death, realizing all the while that that too, had been done before. Done to death, he thought. Ha-ha. Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one came down to the basement for three days after that, so Johnny Felix Decaté didn’t actually die until his grandmother opened the basement door three days later.

I walked behind them [Richard Lewontin] for a few paces, cleared my throat real loud, and when they turned, I was ready. “Hey, Richie! Dick!” I shouted. “How’d you like to punctuate this equilibrium?” Then I hoisted my skirt and gave him a good look at ol’ Lady Liberty. He headed off real quick, but I did manage to get one more shot in: “C’mon! This ain’t just a spandrel!”

This book is structured a little chaotically – initially, you just have to give in and let the story’s logic (or lack thereof) take you and carry you along until you start to get the feel of the flow of the book. Not all of the elements tie perfectly into the ending, but enough do so that it’s satisfying, and the extraneous elements are funny enough that it didn’t feel like they were wasting time by being there. I went in expecting zany, nerdy humor, and I certainly got that. However, on a deeper level, this book’s also about how our perception of things shapes reality, and how everything is interconnected. There were also some genuinely sweet and perceptive moments of love and friendship tucked in there, amidst the physics lessons and generally craziness. A very fun read. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of Christopher Moore or Jasper Fforde who also have an appreciation for all things good and geeky will probably like this one as well.

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Vocab:

  • p. 143: “Dori had obviously been working overtime, and now the World’s Largest Molecule (sic) could be purchased in a variety of formats, including pendants, rings, keychains, bracelets, earrings, brooches, belt buckles, ‘Handi 3-Paks,’ aglets, cuff links, lapel pins, deely boppers, refrigerator magnets, barrettes, hood ornaments, Christmas ornaments, door knockers, ‘Economy Size’ boxes, necklaces, and ‘Classic.’ There was even a new ‘Mini-Humdinger,’ which made no sense at all when we thought about it.” – a metal tag or sheath at the end of a lace used for tying, as of a shoelace.
  • p. 181: “They’re suffused by the feeling of waking up too early in an unfamiliar house, hearing inchoate voices and activities downstairs, trying to get back to sleep, and knowing that it’s impossible.” – not organized; lacking order.
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