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Dante's Equation Paperback – July 29, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Science and sci-fi go hand in hand in this ambitious, if not entirely successful, thriller by Jensen (Millennium Rising), which incorporates elements of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) as well as theoretical physics. During WWII, physicist and mystic Rabbi Yosef Kobinski vanished from Auschwitz in a blinding flash of light. Kobinski left behind at the camp his Kabbalist masterpiece, The Book of Torment, to be buried for safekeeping. Half a century later, a Jerusalem rabbi and an American journalist are trying to find it. Kobinski had also discovered a mathematical theorem that accounts for good and evil in the universe. The theorem is astonishingly similar to work that Dr. Jill Talcott and her assistant Nate Andros have been doing at the University of Washington, studying the effects of energy waves on living creatures. Talcott and Andros are not yet aware of the full destructive potential of their experiments, but the government is, and its agents are soon on Talcott's trail as she takes up the search for Kobinski's manuscript. The principals ultimately find themselves gathered at the very site near Auschwitz where Kobinski disappeared, and they too are in for an otherworldly odyssey. Jensen is on surer ground describing Kabbalah and Holocaust history than she is plotting supernatural adventures, which unravel by the end. But she gets points for the innovative, multifaceted story.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Denton Wylie, a rich and charming tabloid writer, is researching an article about unexplained disappearances. Rabbi Aharon Handalman studies Kabbalah in Jerusalem and searches obsessively for "divinely implanted" coded messages in the Torah. Big, bad Calder Farris is a Marine Intelligence operative on the trail of cutting-edge scientific research that can yield new weapons technology. The ambitious young physicist Jill Talcott is secretly testing a revolutionary new theory in wave mechanics. The paths of these people converge in a search for missing pieces of a lost manuscript written at Auschwitz by a Polish rabbi, physicist, and mystic who vanished in front of witnesses 50 years ago. Modern physics and Kabbalah merge in Kobinski's manuscript, and as the four main characters pursue different aspects of the knowledge it contains, their quest delivers them deep into their own private hells. Although this genre-defying tale takes on weighty issues, Jensen's impressive mastery of fictional technique-plotting, humor, sympathetic characters, a great McGuffin, and lots of suspense-makes it feel like much lighter fare. The middle section is a bit hard to get through, but by then most readers will be hooked enough to stick around for the fitting denouement. This interesting story has obvious appeal for SF and suspense fans, but it is also an enjoyable exercise in the arcane for readers intrigued by codes, psychology, and mysticism.
Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library,
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
The basic idea of the book is that there are multiple planets and universes, each with its own proportion of Good and Evil. Earth is a world where Good and Evil are 50/50, but in other worlds, the proportions might be 30/70 or 60/40 or whatever, and this affects both the physical surroundings and the beings that live on those worlds. (Hence the reference to Dante, whose "Inferno" described a multi-layered "Hell" with different types of "worlds" suited to different sins. In "Dante's Equation," there are various types of "heavens" as well.)
The alternate worlds can be accessed through a mini-wormhole that exists just outside the fence around Auschwitz. During the Holocaust, a rabbi vanished there in plain sight of credible witnesses. Now both the mystics and the scientists are trying to find that extrance again. But the problem with this wormhole is that "like attracts like" and you end up in the world that is most similar to your own vibrations (or level of consciousness or whatever.)
"Dante's Equation" is the formula that not only predicts these proportions of Good and Evil but, with the right (?) laboratory equipment, the formula can actually ALTER the tendencies toward Good or Evil in a given area right here on Earth. Physicist Jill Talcott discovers this formula and creates the effect on a limited basis in her laboratory. Powerful stuff -- but is this a good idea? What if the military turns it into a weapon?
More than that would be a spoiler, except to say that that the book is well-plotted with lots of twists and turns. My one gripe is that the Orthodox rabbi character, Aharon Handalman, is the type of rigid stereotype that is becoming all-too-common in modern fiction these days. And not very accurate, either. The idea that Handalman would not let his wife even look at the printouts from his Bible Code arrays because they are "Torah" is utterly ridiculous. Where did the author get this absurd idea -- from watching "Yentl"? In real life, there would be no reason why his wife could not help him look for patterns in a computer printout. And she probably would. Ditto for going to the Yad VaShem library to do research. One could not even claim this was "Torah" -- it was "secular" scholarship about the Holocaust -- and there are plenty of Orthodox women who do Holocaust research. There is simply NO REASON why she would have to sneak there as she does in the book, except as a rather lame literary device to advance the plot.
As other reviewers have pointed out, the various characters are archetypes of personality traits, and each is out of balance in different ways. OK, I can buy that -- but why, Oh why, must my culture always be used to represent the attribute of rigidity? Not only ONE rabbi, but TWO end up on the "fundamentalist" planet -- in a culture that is more like the Spanish Inquisition than anything Jewish. Was this author even aware that the Inquisition was not a Jewish phenomenon, that Jews do not burn and torture heretics, that the Jews themselves were often the heretics BEING burned? Or is the author projecting "Old Testament" Christian theological stereotypes onto the Jews? At any rate, this part of the book did not ring true to me.
Later in the book, when Rabbi Handalman shaves his beard in order to disguise himself (for reasons I won't give away here), I could go along with that in a life-and-death situation. It is a standard axiom of Torah that most ritual laws may be set aside temporarily to save a life. But the implication was that he stayed shaved after the emergency was over, i.e., that in order to find "love" and "gentleness" he had to cease being Orthodox. For that I dock this book a star. It is perfectly possible to be BOTH an Orthodox Jew AND a compassionate human being -- the two are NOT mutually exclusive! I really wish more novelists would realize that. Still, the book was a good read if you can overlook these stereotypes.
Anyway. As evidenced in my rating of this book, despite its shortcomings (which I'll address shortly), this book is remarkable in so many ways by contrast with comparable books of its genre that it would be unfair to award it with anything less than 5 stars.
So, trolling for cool Sci-Fi du jour I happened upon this well regarded book, ordered it, looked it over superficially, then retired it to the bookshelf. I'm so glad that it found its way back into my reading circulation. From the first handful of pages I was hooked...and I don't hook easily. Jensen's use of creative and elegant prose to narrate the very different, very interesting lives of this books handful of characters had me turning the pages in ever increasing sessions.
At the highest level, and not giving anything material away, this story is about a technology that can manipulate the basic laws that govern our material AND "spiritual" universe. Ambitious? Very, but the author does an admirable job building an epistemological foundation that includes cutting-edge technology, relevant history, and in-depth philosophy. Combined, and against the backdrop of "what's going to happen if this tech falls in the wrong hands", you've got real nail-biting potential. And this book realizes allot of it; that is, for the first 2/3rds of the read. In fact, until that last 1/3rd, I was ready to call up Bezos and try to negotiate a special 6 star rating for this gem. Alas, all good things must come to an end...
...unfortunately, this good thing came to an end intra-book! Unfortunately, I would spoil the plot if I were to delineate why this is exactly, but for those who've read this book already, I was very dissapointed with what I thought to be some philosophical over-reaching (especially in the "other dimensions") as well as a convenient but, in my opinion, downright "wrong" ending (do you deal with problems open or closed-source?).
Don't get me wrong, overall, this was a fantastic book and a worthwhile read. I truly loved it, perhaps that's why I'm being so critical. This book came violently close to being a classic, but is worthwhile regardless.
Santa Barbara, California
However, it is well-worth reading. A good story, with some very imaginative ideas about the balance of good and evil and control vs chaos. I didn't completely agree with the unbalanced worlds that she created and how they applied to and affected the people who went to them, but I liked the idea of them and marvelled at the amount of creativity and imagination that went into creating them.
I am going to try some more Jane Jensen novels as a result of reading Dante's Equation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For me the author had a knack of writing for real and in the moment--hard to...Read more