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Genius Paperback – July 9, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Ted Halket advanced rapidly through school as a child after he was recognized as a genius, but his understanding of human relations didn't develop as quickly as the rest of his intellect. Even when he's married with two children and holds a prestigious job at a major research institute, Ted is drowning, both personally and professionally. Then his elderly father-in-law, whose health is failing, dangles a dazzling prize: Einstein's last secret—a scientific truth so huge it will save Ted's career from encroaching failure. Frequent collaborators Seagle and Kristiansen (It's a Bird...; House of Secrets) create a sad and sweet virtuoso portrait of a besieged man lost in his own disconnection from humanity. Seagle illuminates Ted's inability to connect emotionally with his wife and explain sex to his teenage son, and a series of confrontations with his father-in-law escalate like a puzzle-box mystery. Eisner Award–winner Kristiansen's painted artwork is exquisitely detailed and colored—gorgeous muted pastels and earth tones explode in abstract, psychedelic shades, revealing Einstein's secret and Ted's epiphany. Most remarkably, Seagle and Kristiansen allow the connection of words and pictures to mirror the reader's own comprehension of Ted's journey to awareness. This touching and affecting story unlocks the secrets of the universe and of a man's heart. (July)
*Starred Review* The shadow of Albert Einstein looms large over quantum-physicist Ted Marx. As Ted approaches middle age, his output has stalled, and younger, hungrier minds nip at his heels. The director of his think tank sends down an ultimatum to come up with something big or he’ll be put out to pasture. And pasture is where he can’t afford to be, with a young daughter approaching adolescence, a son already hilariously in its clutches, and a wife battling a life-threatening illness. His semi-senile father-in-law drops a bomb into all of this, however, when he lets slip that he knew “Bert” back in his army days and that Einstein told him a secret he never told anyone else. Something that would devastate everything we know about everything. To what desperate lengths will he pursue the secret? Seagle instills an intellectually minded tale with humble humanity, natural characterizations, and storytelling restraint, letting the visuals speak a good many words and letting others remain hauntingly unspoken. The rough finishes and cloudy hues of Kristiansen’s art suggest a world of incomplete knowledge, where inner spaces and outer shapes relate in ways that can only be hinted at. A complex story with a lot on its mind about the potential, consequences, and priorities of the intellect, told with prismatic focus. --Ian Chipman
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He has a wife, two kids, and an ailing and crotchety father-in-law. The wife may be facing some medical problems.
His thoughts about life, connecting with his kids, and how he will care for his wife are realistic and heartfelt, albeit not very original. But the other plot theme is keeping up with younger physicists. Tough in a field where you are expected to score young.
But it turns out that the crotchety father-in-law served as a bodyguard for Einstein when the latter visited town decades before. And Einstein shared with him a great secret about physics he shared with no one else. Which the crotchety father-in-law remembers and can explain decades later in his greatly diminished state. Right ...
While some parts of this book were interesting and touching, the general premise was too much to swallow. Especially in a book about physics, as opposed to something supernatural.
So, for the next 20 minutes I read it. The "book is published in a comic book format with pictures and captions. It depicts the struggles of a man with a brilliant mind who lives in a real world of pathos. The genius develops, marries, has a family, and contends with real life challenges.
During his professional challenges, the genius has a continual imaginary and intellectual interplay with Albert Einstein. This interplay eventually leads the genius to successfully grapple with his intellectual needs and with his everyday challenges. The question of what is genius may be partially answered in this read--using one's intellectual abilities to successfully navigate in and make sense of a world with many imperfections and often incomprehensible human behavior.
Was I glad that I finished reading this book? Maybe, but I will have to read it several more times.
Ted's working at a scientific journal and the promise he showed as an early 20-something starting out on his physics career, following in the footsteps of his hero, Albert Einstein, has all but gone. But he's been treading water too long - he needs to come up with a big idea to keep his job. And he really needs to keep his job for the health insurance now that his wife's been diagnosed with a brain disorder. Then he finds out his father-in-law knew Einstein back in the 1930s and Albert told him - and only him - an earth-shattering idea...
I found this book a bit contrived to fully enjoy - Ted idolises Einstein and then finds out that his father-in-law knew Einstein and that he told him something he told no-one else. Not that we find out what that idea is, because we don't, just take it as read that this senile old man has remembered it clearly and repeats it to his son-in-law at just the right moment that he needs a big discovery to keep his job. It's all so very convenient!
The book makes a point of differentiating between brain knowledge and heart knowledge, and that Ted has plenty of brain knowledge but not enough of the other. Knowledge as opposed to knowing. Guess what he learns more about at the end of the book? That and his wife having a brain disease all felt like very heavy-handed storytelling.
I will say that Ted did seem like a real person though - Steven Seagle wrote him as a believable, convincing character. Not the most likeable guy, but we don't read fiction to make friends now do we? If the character seems believable, the writer has done his job. Or at least part of it as I wasn't that engrossed in Ted's story.
Teddy Kristiansen's artwork looks very arty, all thin lines and scribbles and flashes of formless paint and watercolours - imagine Eddie Campbell's stuff and you've got it. You either like that style or you don't. I wasn't blown away by it and Kristiansen can't believably make the characters appear to talk but it didn't make me dislike the book any bit.
Genius is a bit clunky in places where the themes and metaphors really get laid onto the reader in a slightly artless way despite its overtly arty visuals. Is the story of Ted coming to terms with his own limitations despite being labelled a genius at an early age, a story you need to read? Not really. It's ok, but not a particularly exceptional comic book.