Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: An Elegant Theory by Noah Milligan

Genre: Contemporary Literature/Psychological/Suspense


Coulter Zahn sees reality differently than others. Much like light can theoretically be in all places at once, Coulter sees multiple versions of his life… An existential psychological thriller, An Elegant Theory explores how the construction of memory and consciousness can shape motive, guilt, and identity through the lens of a modern-day mad-scientist motif.”


Noah Milligan splits his time between words and numbers and is a longtime student of physics, prompting him to write his debut novel, An Elegant Theory, a draft of which was shortlisted for the 2015 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including MAKE, Storyscape Literary Journal, Empty Sink Publishing, and Santa Clara Review. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Central Oklahoma, and he lives in Edmond, OK, with his wife and two children.”

Coulter Zahn is a promising PhD candidate at MIT with a wife and a baby on the way. Understandably, he is under a lot of pressure writing his dissertation. When his hypothesis comes under criticism and his estranged mother (who suffers from mental illness herself) returns, his life starts unraveling or perhaps fracturing would be a better word? As Coulter loses control everyone’s life around him becomes irreparably changed forever.

Mr. Milligan uses a style writing An Elegant Theory that I have not experienced before. There are sudden time-warps where the story will jump either back in time or into a future you are not quite sure is real or imagined. He has employed this style to keep the reader as off balance as Coulter is feeling as his own mental health is deteriorating. And it works. At one point I was convinced Coulter was suffering from schizophrenia, however if you consider the subject of his dissertation it’s likely he was experiencing different planes of existence altogether.

The plot is character driven and not linear. The twists in the story are extreme and well thought out. The most important people are well developed and realistic. I’m wondering if I should warn the readers they may come away from this novel with a taste of quantum physics and string theory as well as what it may feel like to go slowly insane.

I think if I re-read this book, it’s possible, I may come away with a totally different theory about what was actually happening here. After saying that, this would be an excellent novel for discussion with a group or book club. Egads! I don’t think I have ever said that before in a review. I believe Noah Milligan is an author to keep an eye on in the future.

Buy now from:    Amazon US    Amazon UK


**Warning** this book may change the way you see yourself, those around you, or life in general, forevermore.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words


Unknown said...

What a terrific review, ?wasi. But here's a personal reflection. As soon as I'd read your appraisal, I punched the Amazon "buy" button. But when the author wanted $7.99, I didn't follow through. Had it been $3.99, it'd be on my Kindle now. Sure, I can afford the extra $4.00. But I considered $7.99 a big risk for an unknown author and a very different topic and approach. Even after reading your review, every reader's different and I might not enjoy the treatment. $7.99 is where Harper et al are positioned for digital. I dunno? Does my lack of click say more about me or more about the market?
... Pete

?wazithinkin said...

Thank you, Pete. Your comment means a lot to me.

I have the same concern about the price point for any author I am unfamiliar with. To add to that, this is Mr. Milligan's debut novel so, you can't even check the success of past books. A larger concern is that with a digital file all you really have is the right to read a file copy, you don't really own anything.

Mark it up to the growing pains of the new publishing quagmire? I think a lower price point would be a good start to get the book out there to be read and reviewed. So, it's not just you, Pete.

Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

BooksAndPals said...

I tend to agree with Pete as well, but have talked to a few authors who have argued for a higher price point and done well with that strategy. (Also, I suspect in Mr Milligan's case, it is his publisher who set the price. Not that a reader is going to know or care who set the price or what their logic was.)