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The Coincidence Engine by Sam Leith
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The Coincidence Engine

by Sam Leith

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Was searching for Leith's new book on rhetoric [b:You Talkin' To Me?|12652892|You Talkin' To Me?|Sam Leith|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nocover-60x80.jpg|17766620] in the Overdrive catalog, and came across this instead. A zippy read, lots of fun, sort of about probability and quantum stuff but really about some strange characters wandering around the US. An Englishman's view of driving in America. Watch out for the Elvis impersonators!

It's true that it suffers a bit from a "hey I bet I can write like [ai:Neil Gaiman|1221698|Neil Gaiman|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1234150163p2/1221698.jpg]" syndrome, but, well, he comes pretty close. ( )
  Katong | Apr 14, 2013 |
The book begins by discussing a plane that apparently assembled itself during a hurricane, seemingly from random nearby items, and then crash-landed and disappeared. A secret government agency is looking into the appear- & disappearance of this aircraft that should never have existed. Add in a clueless British dude named Alex, some goons of low intelligence capable of murder, and some members of a top-secret government organization so obscure its' own members aren't even sure of what they're investigating, all on a road trip across the landscape of America -- it sounds fun & zany, right?

Well... not exactly.

This book is not as humorous as I was expecting -- it was, instead, more philosophical. It had a lot of mathematical discussion, and also brought in some physics, some ethical conundrums, etc. It was far, far more serious than I was expecting, yet well written so that I, as someone who mainly avoided math & physics classes when at all humanly possible, could still comprehend it. My brain was not straining to comprehend the subject matter to a degree that took my focus away from the story, either.

Overall, I would say that this story is worth reading, provided that you know what you're getting before delving into its' pages.
  shellyquade2 | Mar 20, 2012 |
This book was extremely interesting. It begins with a fully assembled plan created by a hurricane. It then moves onto the investigators looking for what they call a coincidence engine, an engine or machine created that changes probability, rumored to have been created by a mad mathematician, who may or may not have been building a weapon.
A colleague and professor, Hands, is questioned about this mathematician and his plans. Hands then explains probability and the possibility of a machine. I particular enjoyed his interview because he talked about the universe and what probability and chance really is.
There were many characters, all of which intertwined in the plot to find this machine. The investigators follow Alex, who randomly decides to fly into the US, drive across the country, and meet up with his girlfriend in Vegas to propose to her.
Weird things happen throughout this entire book, coincidences such as an entire highway of cars resembling Alex's rental, making it difficult for the investigators to continue tracking him.
Parts of this book were a bit complicated, though I enjoyed the questions of what if. Such as Alex's musing: "You were almost never more than a strange decision or an accident, or a movement of a few feet, from extinction." Ideas like this have always interested me.
The reason I only gave this book 3 stars is because it was sort of confusing and all over the place. The plot didn't come together as I had hoped and sort of just ended without tying together some pieces I felt should have been tied together and expanded upon.
I think this book is worth a second read. Perhaps more of it will make sense to me.
I will be on the lookout for more novels by Leith, as I think he has real talent and I found this plot refreshing and different. Most of the time, you have to read nonfiction to really get into questions about the universe, like probability and outcomes, so it was wonderful to have these ideas presented in fiction.

http://meganm922.blogspot.com/2012/03/coincidence-engine-review.html ( )
  meganm922 | Mar 6, 2012 |
There is a really interesting novel waiting to get out here. Its just a shame that there is so much confusion all over the place. I lost coutn of the amount of times that I had to reread pasages to remember characters of their actions. Mayb this says more about me than the author but to be honest the sci-fi aspect which felt like it could have developed into an interesting climax kind of got lost with the farcical runnin around of the characters. ( )
  polarbear123 | May 22, 2011 |
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A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and in, the back-country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean-cans and junkyard waste. An eccentric mathematician - last heard of investigating the physics of free will and ranting about the devil - vanishes in the French Pyrenees.… (more)

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