Ronald Wright weaves one of the most splendid personal narratives I've ever read in A Scientific Romance. Placing his characters on the edge of life itself through the device of terminal illness, he creates a scenario in which extreme disconnection and introspection feed a stream of solitude and adventure. David Lambert, a powerful academian and independent thinker, comes into possession of a time machine artifact through secret communication conspiracies of H.G. Wells and his family inheritance. When his love triangle with Charlie Parker (yes, that 'Bird' one) and archaeologist Anita culminates in dramatic separation and the shared malady of Creuzfelt Jacobs (Mad Cow) Disease, this heroic Cambridge scholar flashes forward in time to unravel a mystery of world catastrophe, hopefully re-writing his own personal history to satisfactory karmic levels in the process.
One element of the story that is translated perfectly: our new social understanding of Climate crisis and the clear and present danger that most informed humans are shouldering. A short time-travelling stint into the future yields foreboding emptiness and ecological extremes. It is resoundingly clear that the science fiction of the story is heavy on the science. With the powerful literary exception of time travel itself, we see our earthly future as alien archaeologists might: through piecemeal plastic relics and the damning evidence of modern society's destructive footprint on the planet.
There were, however, times in this sojourn when the reader feels disconnected and overwhelmed because of the author's/character's personal connection to educated referencing and classical metaphors. Often, alone and journaling, David expunges soliloquous reflections that create the skeleton of a romance between characters absent from actual story representation. It is an alluring perspective... the idea that experiences and mistakes are malleable constructs, that analytical self-reflection can help correct sordid details of life.
A great adventure story with a satisfying conclusion, A Scientific Romance showcases Wright's talent for description and contemplative character construction. Highly recommended 4/5!
I've spent most of my life getting paid to teach, mostly young children. Obsessed with the ancient world, I studied Classics with a focus on Roman poetry, contributing to my degree in English from … more
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