Is it just me, or are books about scientifically gifted people who are emotionally somewhat inept and incapable of understanding societal norms a bit of a fad at the moment?
If so, then it’s a fad I wholeheartedly support. I’ve read several books in recent years where I’ve related strongly to the protagonist for this reason: The Humans by Matt Haig, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. x+y, a film I watched which had a similar theme.
I like that people who aren’t ‘traditional’ protagonists are getting their day in the sun. Too often it’s still intertwined with romance, still seeming to say that the characters have to become more ‘normal’ in order to function correctly (whatever that means). Nonetheless, it’s nice to see a representation of people I relate to on some level.
Relativity promised to be one such book, and to an extent it was.
The protagonist is Ethan, a young boy who’s obsessed with – and unusually good at – astrophysics. The book is written from the triple perspective of Ethan himself, his mother Claire, and his estranged father Mark.
Ethan wants to know what happened twelve years ago: why did his father leave? He also becomes curious about some strange things that seem to be happening to him: how does he know so much, so intuitively, about the physics of the universe? What was the doctor saying to his mum when he was admitted to hospital? What actually happened when he was a baby?
It was recommended by Graeme Simsion – “Genuinely difficult to put down” – and so I was expecting more of a Simsion-esque writing style. A sort of slightly depersonalised, at times downright hilarious look at what it’s like to be Other; to possess the type and level of intelligence that automatically sets you apart.
That’s not quite what this book brings, though. It’s a good story, well told, easily readable in one sitting. The bathwater went cold while I was working my way through it, which is always a good sign.
But if you’re looking for the sort of protagonist you find in The Humans’ Andrew Martin, or The Rosie Project‘s Don Tillman, or x+y‘s Nathan, you’re not going to find it here.
Ethan is intelligent and different from the other kids, sure, but he’s also relatively “normal” (for want of a better expression) in terms of feeling and expressing emotion. He’s not puzzled by the way humans interact with each other – he’s merely very intelligent and confused about his past.
It is, in short, a good book, but one that didn’t quite deliver what I was expecting. However, it has my recommendation as the kind of story that’ll keep the reader engrossed until the end – and it has a good ending, with just the right level of realism vs. closure.
Relativity will be published in paperback on the 17th of January 2017, priced £8.99.
I received a review copy of Relativity from the publisher. All views are my own.