on April 30, 2011
***Spoiler Alert*** I am prefacing this review with a spoiler alert mainly because I will probably come off sounding like a spoil-sport as I give this book a slightly less glowing review than the vast majority already posted.
A major theme of the "story" appears to be faith and patience and we are brow-beaten with it from very early on in the book. I suppose it is fitting, then, that attempting to read this book is a major exercise in faith and patience. Faith in the author that there is a story buried in there somewhere and patience to wait for him to finally get around to it. I finally lost both just shy of the half-way point in the book. I was about to pack it in a third of the way through the book but the author finally hit an actual plot point and revealed a general direction for the story. Up to that point the author had been doing character development and leading us through a year in the life of four of the characters while he set up various sub plots. Unfortunately his characters are one dimensional: (SPOILER) the rich tech manager whose marriage fell apart and lost his job and sank into drugs and strippers, the "damaged" and rebellious teen who just happens to be a math super-genius, the beautiful physicist who is passionate about the purity of science and the greedy and sleazy lawyer. Even after spending a third of the book developing the characters they still came off as more caricature than character and I found myself not caring about any of them. After the first plot point is revealed I continued reading, hoping the pace would pick up. Instead I was introduced to a new group of characters that had to be developed. Mercifully, these characters were given a little less backstory and development and I was treated to a second plot point before I finally gave up, not quite half way through the book.
The overall tone of the book seems heavy handed and preachy. I kept checking Amazon to see if this book was listed as some type of sub-genre of Christian science fiction but I could not find anything. (SPOILER(again)) My last impression was that the high-tech start-up run by the ultra-conservative Christian group was going to be the home of the bad guys. But what the final message of the story would be still eluded me. And I lacked the faith and patience to find out.
Based on the number of 5-star reviews this book has received, the author has obviously found an audience. And I applaud him for that. Unfortunately for me, I am not his target audience.
on March 7, 2010
I quickly found myself engrossed in this book. I got that deja vu feeling (all over again) akin to what I felt the first time I picked up a John Grisham novel. Only this book has a science/consciousness angle instead of a legal beagle angle. You can tell that Ransom spent time as a particle physicist just as you can tell that Grisham spent time as a lawyer. The results are that the books feel authentic. They also keep the cast of characters to a handful. It turns out to be a nice little read. It also enticed my to purchase Feynman's Lecture (3 volume set) but that may not be everyone's cup of tea! One last note, be a great book to turn into a movie!
on June 24, 2013
OK: Where am I coming from? I was born 'in the field' as my hardcore evangelical missionary parents would say, and stayed in the church until about 18. I have recently retired from 50 years as a patent attorney after working for some years in San Jose but mostly in Australia, firstly for the country's largest R&D organisation and then in my own practice. I have been subscribing to Scientific American for 60 years and to New Scientist for decades, and I have read all the non-specialist writings of Richard Feynman that I can find, plus a bunch of biographies of him. While I read very little fiction, I was intrigued by the free summary, so bought the book. And, it did not disappoint – at first.
Setting: Ryan McNear is a software jock expert in neural networks. He has a great job in Silicon Valley, a good wife and much loved teenage son, only to lose all to drugs after meeting a hooker at the buck’s night of his good work-buddy Foster Reed. Though he gets off drugs he cannot pay support, his wife slaps restraining orders on him preventing him from contacting his son and he leaves California a wanted man. Before all this and in much happier days Ryan and Foster decide to cash in on their employer’s incentive scheme to encourage patent filings. It’s a great lark, each being confident of pulling the scientific wool over the eyes of both their employer and the Patent Office thereby winning the cash bonuses. Foster writes up a scheme for harvesting quantum vacuum energy using a particle collider and Ryan writes up a method that allows genetic / adaptive improvement of multiple neural nets working in tandem. Ryan’s invention can be used to run Foster’s collider. The buddies work collaboratively, are listed as joint inventors on each application and, in surprisingly quick time, the patents and bonuses are issued. Oh: Foster is an evangelical Christian and Ryan is Catholic by birth but is not religious. Foster suggests his collider can harvest spiritual energy; Ryan plays along saying his optimized coupled neural nets can generate a soul.
The action starts when penniless Ryan rents a room from a dodgy (disbarred?) lawyer Dodge Nutter and signs over any residual right he may have in the patents (his only asset) as surety. Fellow lodgers are a crazy woman and her disadvantaged, rebellious but bright 12 year old daughter, Kat. Dodge investigates the patents and finds they have been sold to an Evangelical University where Foster is now a professor and where a big development project is underway that is touting for industry funding. We learn that Dodge has a sister – Emmy Nutter – who is also a physics professor with expertise in quantum mechanics; a non-believer who considers Foster’s patent rubbish. Dodge thinks there are flaws in Ryan’s assignment of the patents and smells a dollar. The atmosphere in the evangelical university is well described and it is clear that Foster has sold the project to management. A meeting is set up for ‘the Nutters’ to make the sting. So far, so good!
From here the story falls apart. Too many diversionary rabbits are set running. There are long ‘love interest’ detours involving Ryan and Emmy. Much completely unnecessary effort is devoted to portraying (most unconvincingly) Kat as a mathematical genius of at least the same stature as the mature Feynman, and certainly the equal of Emmy. We have a detailed diversion into the US State alimony systems as Ryan works toward seeing his son again, though it must be said that this bit is interesting and well written. The sting is forgotten and the book ends with a long, new-agey metaphysical ramble about Kat’s take on the soul in Ryan’s neural nets.
[Now, why give the surname ‘Nutter’ to a couple of smart good guys? OK, Emmy was modeled on Amolie Noether, a remarkable Jewish mathematician but that does not dictate Nutter. The rest of the English speaking world reads ‘nutter’ as ‘screwball’.]
on November 5, 2010
This was an interesting and thoughtful read that combines science and religion. Ryan McNear and Foster Reed are hot shot engineers during the dot com boom and subsequently write two patents that forever change their lives. One patent is a rewrite of Genesis so to speak and is a design o create energy from nothing - as in Genesis. The other patent is an algorithm for the soul. Ransom Stephens includes a bit of simple quantum physics mixed with artificial intelligence and religion, begging the question: Can they be reconciled? There were some interesting ideas postulated in this story. I also really enjoyed the vivid characters Stephens paints. I really enjoyed getting to know Ryan and Kat. They are quite an unlikely pair, but it really works in the book. I think the characters are the best part about this novel. There was also a small twist at the end that I didn't see coming. All in all, it's enjoyable and thought provoking.
on May 16, 2013
Pleasant but not real deep story despite a ton of physics and religion. It just fails to please. I made it through because the characters are interesting enough, and the plot seems like it might become exciting several times... But like the main character, it charts a mediocre and ultimately unsatisfying course through the meaning of life.
on November 25, 2013
I bought this book, and read it all the way through, but I felt a bit cheated, because it was listed as science fiction, and it is not science fiction. I agree with the other reviewers who point out that the story appears to have been a little out of the author's control. The characters are indeed delineated in quite an interesting way, but the idea of the patent itself sort of falls flat; this is not a book about patents as such. And it definitely is not science fiction!
on July 22, 2013
"The God Patent" by Ransom Stephens tackles a subject that has been widely debated for hundreds, if not thousands of years - how do religion and science fit together. The main character, Ryan McNear, and his long-time and bible-thumping friend, Foster Reed, develop two patents that are based in technology, but mixed with a generous dose of Christianity. The patents were put together on a lark to gain bonuses from the company the duo worked for at the time. Unbelievably, the patents were approved. Even though they made it past the patent office, Ryan never thought the patents held any value; a sentiment not shared by Foster Reed. Foster Reed starts developing technology based on the patents, trying to create a technology that would forever change science and religion.
"The God Patent" is interesting, with engaging characters, but the development of the story was too slow for my tastes. It took me about half the book before I truly became interested. At that point, I didn't want to put it down. It took me three days to read the first half and one evening to read the rest.
The characters in the book are well written, but Ryan McNear isn't as likable as he should be. His backstory was too rough. The mistakes he made in the past limited how much I could root for him to win. I want to root for the protagonist, but I could barely muster any enthusiasm for Ryan McNear. All humans make mistakes, but his were severe and I almost didn't want him to dig himself out of the hole he was in. I felt I would have liked the book much more if Ryan McNear was a better guy. I actually liked the character Dodge Nutter more. He was constantly described as sleazy and untrustworthy, but despite always looking to con people, he often helped out the less fortunate - Ryan McNear being one of them.
I wanted to love "The God Patent", but I just couldn't. It started out slow, but picked up steam and that's fine as long as it finishes strong. Unfortunately, I found the ending to be a complete let down. It would spoil the book if I said anything further, so I won't. I don't think the ending would spoil it for everyone though, so don't use that as an excuse not to read it. Despite the flaws with the characters and story, I still liked the book, just not loved it.
on April 9, 2014
Overall I was intrigued enough to continue reading til the end because Im a ' big questions' kinda girl and love to think about what possibly happens when we die, ( other than the body decomposing) ...what is the 'soul' etc.... BTW, Im an RN so over the years have been up close to people dying in addition to losing my own loved ones over the years ...... I remember learning somewhere along the line that per physics, " energy" cannot 'die' ...it can only change form. Sometimes that is a comforting thought but other times it's confusing to me.
The odd thing to me about this book is on one hand the author lost me a few time with all the mathematical equation discussions etc.....and the 14 y.o was apparently a mathematical genius, yet he also lost me with the ( to me) somewhat weak character development. It wasn't that I "liked " or didn't "like" any of the characters, but ,well, they were just kind of blah in a literary way.....i enjoy books where I swear I'd KNOW the character if I saw him/ her and these appeared a bit too neatly stereotyped ( for lack of better word) ...yet the science/math/ physics stuff seemed over my head as an average Jane. I guess Im glad I read it. It didnt really hit me with any earth-shattering epiphanies ..... But ....my dear elderly mom died this past year and Ive been drawn to ANY book that even attempts to mention what happens when we die. So, without giving away the ending, I HAVE been thinking about Kat's "theory" or belief and am kind of seeing it.....it sounds nice anyway.
on October 30, 2011
I've been doing a lot of reading about quantum physics as research for the third book in my 'Mercury' series, and I downloaded The God Patent on a whim while waiting for Roger Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind. I'm very glad I did.
This is a remarkable book. It seamlessly integrates concepts from physics and math with a truly riveting, multi-faceted story. In a way, you could think of The God Patent as a mirror image of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: In the same way that Pirsig combined philosophy with a cross-country motorcycle ride, Stephens combines a story of one man's redemption with quantum physics. But whereas Pirsig's treatise was primarily inward-facing, Stephens' narrative ultimately reaches outward, finding meaning in the interconnectedness of all things.
on June 19, 2013
It's a rare book that pisses me off so badly that I delete it from my Kindle after only a day. The God Patent achieved it with me making it through only 1/4 of the book. This is NOT science fiction. It's some kind of evangelical spoof of what a scientist does and is. The author very obviously had a message (Good News?) that he needed to share with the atheistic scientific community. And share it he does. Page after page after page.
If you're looking for well-written science fiction, stay far away from The God Patent. If, OTOH, you love your religion in megachurch-sized doses and really don't care about plot or pacing, this may be the book for you.