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The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

The Flicker Men

by Ted Kosmatka

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Review originally seen at Looking Glass Reads.

The Flicker Men delves into some hardcore science. Quantum physics isn’t anything to sneeze at, and the double-slit experiment is very central to the plot. But it never felt confusing to me, and I never got bogged down trying to decipher the science behind the story. Everything you need to know is relayed by the author, and done so fairly well. The story never stops to dump all the info on the reader. Instead, everything is relayed in conversation between Eric and his fellow scientists, many of whom are not physicists themselves, and on an as-needed basis. (And as I edit this review I realize that, technically, that can be considered infodumping, in a sense. However, it didn’t feel like that at the time.)

Now for the characters.

Eric Argus. Our narrator. Our protagonist. I loved Eric in all his flawed wonderfulness. He had some very real issues in depression and drinking, had a lot of childhood trauma he’d never worked through. Eric was a fantastic character to experience the story through, and I rooted for him all the way. I love an unreliable narrator, and I feel like this strayed into that territory at times. Even Eric questions his own mental state. I liked even better how he changed through the course of the story, perhaps not completely overcoming his vices and downfalls, but making the effort both consciously and, at times, unconsciously to do so.Some of the other characters. Well…

The scientists were loveable, filled with personality and quirks. (Note the lack of the phrase character development.) Yeah, I was disappointed here. A lot of the characters weren’t fully drawn out. One in particular I hated. By the end of the story I almost felt like she was a caricature pulled directly off of tvtropes.

So, yes. The Flicker Men does have its flaws. It’s not perfect. While Eric’s flashbacks were very interesting, I feel like they didn’t completely pay off in the end. I’m not sure what it was that I was waiting to happen, but I was waiting for something, and it never came. Some of the characters and a bit two dimensional. One or two were downright aggravating.
But you know what? I still liked this story. It was still a good read. Nothing made me want to throw the book across the room, and never pick it up again. I read it in only a couple of sittings, and want to reread it.

At the end of the day, yeah. I absolutely recommend this book. If you like thrillers give The Flicker Men a try, but be prepared for some real science. If you like science-fiction, go for it! ( )
  kateprice88 | Jan 30, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Eric Argus was once a promising figure in the world of physics; now he has only four months to prove himself or his career is over. Unable to find a solid project, Eric decides to use some abandoned lab equipment to re-create the famous double-slit electron experiment. This classic experiment in quantum physics shows how an observer seemingly affects the outcome. However, Eric soon discovers that only humans seem to count as observers; other animals do not alter the outcome. Some think Eric’s found proof of the human soul, while others still think he’s learned too much…

It’s nice to see a science-fiction novel grounded firmly in real science, and The Flicker Men is at its strongest when it focuses on the questions raised by quantum phenomena. Kosmatka does a great job not only making physics understandable but actually interesting.

The problems come when the story moves into standard action-thriller territory. Kosmatka raises some intriguing questions but stops short of fully exploring them. I liked the idea of the titular “flicker men,” but too much time is spent with tedious chases and kidnappings.

The characters a little thin as well, save for maybe Eric and his colleague Satvik. The set up is a bit absurd as well; good research can take months if not years to complete, and a four month limit seems ridiculously arbitrary. There’s also no indication of what this company does or why they exist; it’s all just a means to get Eric to the electron gun.

Still, if you want some real science in your science fiction, and some brain-breaking questions to mull over, give this a try.

A review copy was provided through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. ( )
  lisally | Aug 4, 2016 |
This almost felt like two books. The first half was immensely enjoyable and interesting (so much so that I was willing to ignore how thinly drawn some characters were, with the notable exception of Satvik, and how weird the style was at times with the short staccato sentences). I loved the science and the idea behind the story, and I was expecting to see the consequences of the findings in the first half unfurl.
But all of a sudden I was reading a completely different book. The vague, shadowy bad guys (yawn), the chase and escape scenes (that I ended up skimming over), the hero surviving seemingly impossible odds, the mystifying mumbo jumbo that was disguised as scientific talk but made no sense whatsoever. Add to that some more characters that were so flimsy, they barely registered on the page. (Pretty much all female characters in this book kind of make you wonder "Why was she there now? Is there a point to her?" Or in one case "Wait? They had sex now? I thought she was just kind of there? Did they ever talk? Well, he did mention she was beautiful, I guess".)
I also have only a very vague idea what happened at the end but to be honest, by that time I just didn't care anymore.
Mind you, if you like reading the type of action thriller the second half contains, you will enjoy it a lot more than me (it's just a personal thing that I often find these things boring to read), and the other reviews here a largely positive, but if you read the beginning and are hooked by the concept, don't expect any further exploration of the scientific and global impact. ( )
  Triciafee | Mar 4, 2016 |
The Flicker Men is science-fiction, hard science-fiction. It is rooted in the real world science of Feynman’s double slit experiments that proved the duality of light, that light is both wave and particle. Coincidentally, just one year ago, the very first photo was taken of this duality of light. I know sometimes people run in fear of hard science and quantum physics in particular, but Ted Kosmatka does an excellent job of making it easy to understand in his book. If only the people who wrote textbooks could write with such clarity. For those who are still afraid of the science, this short video explains the experiment and even a little more, explaining how they were able to photograph light as both wave and particle.

The double slit experiment in the book and in real life demonstrates the observer effect, because when light goes through the slits unobserved, they are waves. When they are observed, they are particles. Observing a phenomenon changes the phenomenon. All of this is real science, rooting this novel deeply in reality, which makes its progression into speculative fiction more exciting.

The speculation begins when the scientists discover than frogs observing the light do not change its nature, nor do cats, dogs, chimps or apes. Is it possible that the difference is explained by human consciousness, maybe even the human soul? Of course, our scientist Eric Argus is only thinking of the science, not its implications in society.

The rest of my review is at https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/the-flicker-men-by-ted-kosmatka/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Feb 5, 2016 |
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I crouched in the rain with a gun.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805096191, Hardcover)

A scientist shocks the world with proof of the human soul—the discovery ignites a struggle between physics and theology, free will and fate, and reveals more than we were ever meant to know

A novel worthy of comparison to works by Michael Crichton and William Gibson, Ted Kosmatka returns with his best and boldest thriller yet. Eric Argus has one last chance. His earlier scientific work—groundbreaking and infamous—jeopardized his reputation and threatened his sanity. But an old university friend hires him at Hansen Research, a Boston laboratory that provides researchers a probationary period of free reign. Argus has a final opportunity to regain his standing and renew his faith in science.

He replicates Feynman's double-slit experiment that famously demonstrated the mysterious dual nature of light and matter. Building upon that work, Argus discovers a staggering and elemental difference between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom. He proves the existence of the human soul.

His findings are celebrated and condemned in equal measure. But no one can predict where the unraveling truth will lead. Soon reports surface of "soulless" individuals, humans seemingly devoid of spiritual substance, known as "the Fated." Who are they? Why are they here? And what happens now that they are known? As Argus seeks answers, a powerful syndicate seeks him, and the race for the truth turns deadly—but for how many?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:17 -0400)

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