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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
For such a short book Steven deals with a lot of complicated topics ranging from aging in-laws, illness, being smart but not smart enough, and most importantly of all...what do you do when you've been told the greatest secret known to man? It's like the parable of the gold pieces from the Bible, but in this case letting the secret go to seed maybe the best thing to do with it. This is the question that Ted struggles with, all the while trying to deal with normal life and the pressures of his job. And it's the story's greatest strength. We see Ted as neither a hero, or a villain, or even someone to aspire to be like. He's just...like the rest of us, struggling to deal with life and everything that is thrown at him. There is no neat and tidy ending with this book. No question is every truly answered and we don't know what Ted may do with the secret. Instead the book is just like the real world...gray and unclear, with hints of light.
One of the things I struggled the most with this book were the illustrations. It took me a while to realize why everything was gray and somewhat fuzzy, with hints of green and light running through it, is that Teddy is mirroring what we see in the storyline, he's mirroring life. It's not supposed to be clear and rosy, instead it's muted and unclear, with those hints of light shining through every once in a while, like a bolt of genius out of the gray. The one big issue I have with the book, is the type choice. It was at times difficult to read and made for some interesting... confusion, such as where it looks like the father-in-law is calling Albert Bett instead of Bert.
Overall while I enjoyed the book, I found it difficult to grasp until the 3rd or 4th reading. And I think that's because the author paralleled life so closely, creating a character that we can't but help find uncomfortable because he's so like us and he struggles with the same things that we do. And yet...that's also the biggest selling point of the book. This is a good book for adults and I give the it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond