New book: The Omega Theory, by Mark Alpert ’82 (Touchstone)
The author: A contributing editor at Scientific American, Alpert specializes in explaining complicated scientific ideas to readers. At Princeton, he majored in astrophysics, but left science for poetry, earning an M.F.A. at Columbia University, before entering journalism. His first novel, Final Theory (2008), was a thriller about Albert Einstein and the quest for the holy grail of physics, the Theory of Everything. In the sequel, The Omega Theory, he weaves religious issues, terrorism, science, and history.
The plot: The novel opens with news reports that Iran has tested a nuclear bomb. And scientific instruments indicate that for a brief moment the very fabric of the universe was disrupted, dislocating the dimensions of space and time. Meanwhile David Swift, a science historian at Columbia University, and his wife, the physicist Monique Reynolds, find out that their adopted son — Michael Gupta, an autistic teenager who is a descendant of Albert Einstein — has been kidnapped by a cult militia. Gupta has memorized Einstein’s final theory, the equations that could explain all the forces of nature. Swift and Reynolds join forces with an FBI agent to track down the cult’s messianic leader and realize that there’s a connection between the kidnapping and Iran’s nuclear blast.
Opening lines: “It happened on a Tuesday, June 7th, at 4:46 p.m. while Michael Gupta was in his behavioral therapy session. There was a knock on the door and Dr. Parsons went to answer it. Just before he got there, the door opened wide and Michael heard a quick, muffled burst. Dr. Parsons tumbled backward and his head hit the floor. He lay motionless on his back, a jagged black hole in the center of his polo shirt. In less than a second, the hole filled with blood.”
Reviews: “Science meets geopolitics meets religious fanaticism in Alpert’s breathless sequel to Final Theory,” wrote Publishers Weekly. Alpert, wrote Booklist, “stands to gain many more mainstream thriller fans, those who like a Michael Crichton–like mix of science and action.”