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Entanglement (SF) - Andrew Thomas ***(*)

There’s a lot to like about Entanglement, though it has to be read with a few reservations, which I will come back to.

In this first novel by Andrew Thomas, we have a humorous science fiction thriller, with a love story or two thrown in. A top-secret government research station in the Scottish highlands disappears, a colony of moles are mysteriously transported from Cambridgeshire to Lundy Island, and a brick starts behaving very strangely. The main thread of the story is interspersed with the story of another character who repeatedly finds herself in parallel worlds - initially terrifying, over the years it becomes a way of life.

Thomas has some really clever ideas and pulls them together in an unexpected way that echoes the book’s title. Although what happens is downright weird, sometimes feeling closer to fantasy than SF, Thomas grounds what is happening in some of the more outré aspects of quantum physics. I found myself wanting to read on to discover how it would all turn out, and there are a couple of enjoyable plot twists.

However, I do need to highlight three issues. One is the humour. Early on there is a real feeling of a Douglas Adams pastiche, without Adams’ deft hand at humour. One of the main characters is an Arthur Dent clone, though the humour is probably closer to the less hilarious Dirk Gently series, but lacking a strong Gently-like character to carry it. The humour, supported by a lot of footnotes (mostly informative rather than funny in the Terry Pratchett style) rarely works well and thankfully tails off to a degree later in the book. Secondly, there is a lack of focus as point of view flies between many different characters. This is partly required by the book’s outcome, but it makes it hard to identify with any main character. Those characters, incidentally are mostly from central casting - Adams gets away with this using irony, but we don’t feel it here, particularly with an RAF character straight from W. E. Johns. Equally, the author seems to want the book to be too many things - a science fiction adventure, a comedy and a romance (going on the tagline ‘What if the love of your life disappeared?’) - a clearer focus would have helped.

Finally, Entanglement really could do with a professional edit. It is relatively free of typos (though there are some), but it’s more a case of clumsy phrasing and uninspiring prose that could have been so much better with a polish throughout. I enjoyed it despite this, but it would have been a lot better after a good work over. I ought also to say (as the author of a book on quantum entanglement) that there is no real connection between the many worlds interpretation, which is central to this story, and entanglement - it’s too much to expect science fiction to be scientifically accurate - it is fiction after all - but this is claimed as if it were fact.

So, there are some issues to contend with - a bit like a movie with a so-so soundtrack, but that shouldn’t get in the way of the fact that Thomas gives us an intriguing SF hypothesis and some genuinely clever twists. I’m looking forward to see what he does with the sequel.

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Review by Brian Clegg


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