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'Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.' Niels Bohr,
This review is from: Love at Absolute Zero (Kindle Edition)The concept of marrying science and passion as the topic for a novel is a challenging one at best. And that is exactly what Christopher Meeks has succeeded in meeting in his latest novel LOVE AT ABSOLUTE ZERO. Meeks seems to mature literarily by leaps and bounds with each new book he pens. This reader became enamored of his short stories but then that little contagious virus mutated into the novel format, and where most writers begin with the big works and then distill to short stories later (if they are able to move into that challenging realm at all), Meeks appears to have gleaned the technical virtuosity of creating characters in a minimum of space and then unfold those characters in response to the movement of the landscape of a large novel with such aplomb that he is likely to continue on his climb to one of America's more important writers this decade.
Gunnar Gunderson is a cerebrally elite physicist who at age 32 has already gained tenure at his University of Wisconsin Madison campus, teaching and immersed in a research project with partners Carl and Harry beginning with the Bose-Einstein condensate and moving toward reaching the ultra cold - Absolute Zero. Gunnar Gunderson is also relationship challenged, hopelessly naïve about affairs of the heart - an unpracticed but very sweet nerd whose preoccupation with physics has subsumed his filling out his life with love. Yet when confronted by his partners, 'He knew the way to find the right person. He should use the same approach that had always served him well: the scientific method. Use the scientific method for love.' His supportive partners disagree; 'Attraction and connection can't be explained anymore than sunspots....It's about chaos'. But Gunnar's hypothesis is that to attract someone he had to emphasize the laws of attraction: sending physical, mental, and genetic healthy signals. And from there the book takes flight on Gunnar's concept that he has three days in which to find the girl of his dreams. He decides to try ScurryDating and in order to physically become everything a girl would want he gets his teeth cleaned, then orthodontia, then hair styling and a wardrobe change and he is off to a social media convocation where he will be paired with potential dates - surely in time for his three day deadline.
But fate enters the picture and he is sidetracked by finding an attraction to one of his students, in seeing an old girlfriend Ursula who though paired at the moment might just be the one - until he meets (steps onto) Kara, a Danish redhead bombshell visiting her old girlfriend. Gunnar experiences passion and in the two weeks that Kara has before her flight back to Denmark they have a passionate affair, fall in love/lust, and make plans for Gunnar to move to Denmark where he will do a sabbatical at the highly touted Physics Institute there. Kara leaves, Ursula returns from a nursing stint in Arizona now free of her prior boyfriend and ready for Gunnar, but Gunnar is committed to his Danish pastry - until of course he flies to Denmark and discovers that Kara has fallen out of love with Gunnar and into love with another. So Gunnar is stuck in Denmark sans Kara and faces more and more alterations to his scientific hypothesis about love. The carousel keeps rotating and Gunnar seems destined to miss that golden ring and when Gunnar returns to Wisconsin he reconnects with Ursula and comes to the realization 'I tell my introductory students about certain laws of physics....They are the rules except when it comes to quantum physics, especially at absolute zero, when things change. I talk about Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. We cannot know, for instance, where an electron is at the same time in knowing how fast it is moving.' And so Meeks drops us off at the gate of life wondering how things will resolve for Gunnar. And the magical thing is that he makes us really care about this strange bright naïve nerd.
It is a given, now, that Christopher Meeks is a master craftsman as a writer. What surprises us in this novel is just how much research he's done to get the scientific part of it right. Where does all of this passionate knowledge of physics lie, knowledge that allows him to write so comfortably, opening every chapter with a scientific quote, that we novices stay on board with him? It is a gift - and one of the many that continue to emerge from the pen and mind and brilliant trait for finding the humor in life that makes him so genuinely fine a writer. Grady Harp, June 11