If the theory behind quantum physics isn’t quite within your grasp, if you’d expect to find Schrodinger’s Cat in a pet shop, if your idea of interference is a group text filled with emojis, Dr. Matt Bronik can educate your world.
As a leading character in Brad Parks’s 10th novel, “Interference” (Thomas & Mercer), Bronik is a way-off-the-charts smart Dartmouth professor whose work, as he relates to his wife, Brigid, is understood by only a dozen people in the world — “and only five of them actually care.” But as a gifted teacher and post-doc mentor, Bronik — and, of course, we’re really talking about Parks here — has the ability to not only dumb down the science for the rest of us, but turn it into a Class A thriller.
Parks is an award-winning novelist with an admitted amateur interest in physics and the talent to craft page-turners. In “Interference” he takes science out of central casting to fuel an espionage-abduction-virus story that fans of Michael Crichton and Lee Child will ride to the end. And like other top-notch fiction writers, Parks infuses enough reality into his seemingly implausible scenarios to create a suspension of disbelief.
There’s Bronik’s work at Dartmouth, a federal secret involving “quantum entanglement” — the idea that two particles, once entangled, are never again truly apart. Although originally decried by Einstein as “spooky action at a distance,” the science is authentic and experimentally provable as demonstrated recently by a real-world, nonfiction team of Chinese scientists.
Also authentic, but still in the realm of theoretical physics, is the plot-critical concept of “interference,” or the attempt to place a substance, a virus in this case, into a quantum state.
Heady stuff, indeed, and it should be noted that Parks consulted with a MIT physics professor for the book. But with nine successful novels behind him, the international bestseller Parks didn’t need to consult anyone to construct a simmering whodunit that casts dispersions on a cheating colleague, a cutthroat billionaire or any one of the author’s well-defined characters.
Even if the novel at times can be bogged down by those definitions — Brigid’s hearing loss seems to serve as more plot device than disability — Parks’s novel will live up to its name for many readers.
“Interference” is the quick, escapist read many of us need now to interfere with our own viral realities.