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Here & There Paperback – November 1, 2015
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“For people who do take the plunge, an incredible payoff awaits...Anyone interested in quantum physics, data encryption, and advanced computing will relish Here and There’s deep meditations on these topics.” —io9
“Fascinating and suspenseful and can be appreciated from multiple angles.” —RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Joshua V. Scher is a recent transplant from New York City to the Hollywood hills, where he is continuing his transition from writing for the stage to the screen, both theatrical and television. His film, I’m OK, is in postproduction and slated for a festival run in 2016. The cinematic adaptation of his play The Footage was developed by Pressman Film. Scher collaborated with Joe Frazier and Penny Marshall’s Parkway Productions on the Joe Frazier biopic Behind the Smoke. He also worked with Danny Glover and Louverture Films on Scher’s original TV pilot, Jigsaw. His works for the stage include Marvel, Flushed, and Velvet Ropes, as well as the musical Triangle. He holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in creative writing from Brown University and a master of fine arts degree in playwriting from Yale University. This is his first novel.
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Top customer reviews
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So… what is experimental about this? Well, first the structure. Many recent books from Andy Weir’s “The Martian” to Jami Attenberg’s “Saint Maizie” tell their story with a combination of everything from journals to interviews, traditional third party/ past tense chapters to omniscient present tense. This is that structure on steroids.
The premise is that the novel is really a large briefcase stuffed with materials accompanied by a very long cover letter. The case includes drafts of a psychological study by the mother, Hilary (think profiler, again on steroids), inserted notes and stories by the letter writer (her son Danny, a fine story teller), physics lectures, physics lectures disguised as short stories written by one of the characters, official transcripts of videos, the psychologist’s description of videos, official (redacted) documents and more. And many of these are inserted into others, which meant I was constantly having to go back to remind myself where I was before the interruption In addition, there are interactive footnotes and links. (Frankly, I recommend skipping those until the end or have the footnotes open on a second device. I had a terrible time getting back to the page from the footnotes) **
This is a very dense, challenging read. The psychologist’s draft report, which is supposedly designed to be clear for laymen officials, reads more like a dissertation than a report for officials. It includes long, detailed descriptions and quotes of psychological theories (with extensive footnotes and links) backing up her analysis of characters and their actions- in every …single…. situation. There are also long detailed discussions, stories, explanations of and lectures on quantum theory and mechanics. Other topics include semiotics and cryptography. Many parts of the book read like a text book. So..like I said, challenging read.
The story itself is near future sci fi/ techno thriller primarily revolving around a scientist's work in “teleportation”. It also develops into the story of the scientist Reider and his wife Eve and of Danny himself. You are able to detect a whiff of what is really going on fairly early. But really the background story is just that- a framework. It’s as though the author had hundreds of ideas, theories, anecdotes, stories (including a longish sci fi story at the end) and created the basic story around them.
So what to say. Hmmm. Parts of this I liked a lot. (Everything above is a positive for me except the excessive academic citations and footnotes issue.) And I’m extremely impressed by the complex work the author created. But on the other hand I don’t really want the author’s effort to be the first thing I think of in a book. And all of that detail and constant side stories became excessive, undermining one thing I want in a book- a connection to the characters.
So, I’m going with four stars but with a warning. If you are looking for a kick back, put up your feet afternoon read or thought the science in “The Martian” was too much, this probably isn’t for you. But if you want to commit to a spending a lot of time on complex read, enjoy a broad range of subjects with a lot of detail this can be an enjoyable project.
ETA See comments. Amazon Customer advises that she didn't have any problem with the foot notes working. I read most of this on my kindle keyboard which is old. So the issue is probably my device and you may not have the problem.
Second edit for clarity
The story opens with the discovery by Danny of a top-secret US Government report prepared by Hilary concerning a disastrous event known as The Reidier Test. The test, performed by a Brown University quantum physicist named Kerek Reidier, resulted in the attempted teleportation and presumed death of Reidier's family and top government officials. Although paced and presented as a sci-fi thriller, the narrative in large part explores in romantic detail the love between Reidier and Eve, and their two unusual children, in the context of his devotion to a project that would permanently transform humankind.
So basically I'd say HERE & THERE imagines the next advancements in teleportation in the frame of a love story -- can the atoms and energies that comprise people's bodies and "minds" be teleported and transferred successfully?
In any event - read it to the very end, such as it is - there's a lot of provocative and nuanced detail in these last pages. I'm interested to see what others think and wonder if we've got a future sort of cult classic here.
I'm intentionally not reading other reviews in order to prevent coloring my own opinion. I downloaded this as a Kindle First. I'm glad I did. I had a rocky beginning with the book. I was confused by the way it was set up. It was unconventional and I was unused to it. But after reading hundreds of books that follow a predictable pattern, I realized that this book broke me out of that mold and challenged me to recall things that had been previously said in the book or use the capability of Kindle (and the kindly provided references) to refresh my memory.
I'm not a physicist, but when i talked to one about the themes of the principle character's research, he immediately understood what the book was about so I recommended it to him.
I suppose if you read more fiction than I do, then the model the book follows of mystery within a mystery may not be new to you. I read a lot more non-fiction and the fiction i read lately has been pretty vanilla straightforward stuff so this was an interesting read because it exposed me to how modern authors are implementing ancient tools to achieve memorable literature.
I'll barely remember the theme of the last David Baldacci book I read, but I'll definitely remember Joshua Scher and look out for his books in the future.