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.
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**Warning** this book may change the way you see yourself, those around you, or life in general, forevermore.
Original review was posted on December 16, 2016.
No significant proofing or formatting issues.
Rating: ***** Five Stars
Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words