M. Upamanyu (2018)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (10/18)
“The Yin & Yang of an Electrical Conductor” by Jose Scaramanga weaves scientific theories into an absorbing speculative sci-fi novella alive with characters and a storyline that will both engross readers and stimulate contemplation long after the book is finished.
The narrator begins our journey in the Neolithic era where we get to observe two Neanderthals communicating through a drawing about our place in the center of the universe. While this geocentric belief has been disproven, it continues in some areas today because not everybody got the message that we are not the center of the universe. Next, the narrator leads us to a giant, hookah smoking caterpillar resting on a giant mushroom. The caterpillar is very grumpy, but the narrator still manages a conversation with him. Unsure if this experience is a dream or not, the narrator goes home to discover physicists from the 18th century in his living room. His curiosity is piqued when Andre Ampere, founder of the science of electromagnetism, uses an odd-looking phone to contact Professor Whodunit, who lives on a planet the size of an electron. When the professor and his wife show up in a strange car-like vehicle, the narrator finds himself headed to China to meet with professor Yinyang and then off to a monastery in the Himalayas to meet with the beautiful Hindu Muya. In each interaction, lively discussions revolving around science, especially physics, ensue. Each “teacher” that the narrator encounters has something to share from their perspectives, which makes for some lively discussions.
“The Yin & Yang of an Electrical Conductor” truly made my mind whirl. In spite of being novella-sized, it is not a fast read because there are many layers to this story. So many forgotten scientific terms reemerged into my existence. Not having had a science class in twenty-five years had me Googling some terms and names to refresh my memory, including wave particle duality; Newtonian Law; velocity-spatial distribution of time; the speed of light; Minkowski space time; Michelson-Morley experiment; Max Planck and Andre Ampere who features heavily in the story. Fresh out of Physics in college would have been an advantage for reading this, but I must admit, I enjoyed refreshing my brain. I feel much smarter now and less intimidated about sitting at lunch with my colleagues who are physics professors!
Jose Scaramanga has a gift for being able to create scenes in his story that will enable the reader to feel like they are seeing the story rather than reading it. In fact, I will remember “The Yin & Yang of an Electrical Conductor” as a movie, rather than a book. In spite of the heavy scientific jargon, the scenes are well described and the characters incredibly unique and enjoyable. The author does a great job of blending science into a science fiction story. I also am really intrigued how the author manages to tie physics in with the philosophy of Yin and Yang. Readers who are fans of both science and science fiction, especially stories with humor, will really appreciate this creative work of fiction.