Mr g by Alan Lightman

I have to say that I feel a little torn about this book. I first heard about Mr g last year in the catalogue from Corsair and the idea intrigued me. So much so, that I put it in my top ten most anticipated titles of 2012. I thought that the idea of God talking about his early days as he created the universe sounded quirky, original and off the wall. It turns out the book is a lot drier than I first thought it would be and while I enjoy a science slant in fiction, this seemed too heavy handed.

The novel is described as being playful and in that respect I have to agree. However, the term playful can be interpreted several ways. Really what the publisher/author means is that Mr g opens with a little humour. We first meet God – AKA Mr g – as he wakes up from a nap. He is bored and decides to use his powers to create a universe. He is accompanied in “The Void” by his Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva who are constantly bickering and sticking their nose into the moment of celestial creation.

It all seems very playful as Mr g is depicted as a man who generally rushes things and is all too eager to create. He wants many universes under his control and he wants to experiment, to play with his creation. This is fine until Lightman twists the narrative and gives it a heavy science based slant. I was expecting this playful attitude to last throughout but as soon as Mr g instates his three basic laws that govern the universe (Aalam-104729) we journey off into the realms of philosophy and science theory.

Gone is the opening whimsy and in its place we have lyrical passages that describe the atoms coming into existence or the many chemicals that flow throughout the ether. While I enjoyed Lightman’s ideas on the moments of creation I felt as if I’d been dragged unwillingly into a lecture about differing theories on the subject of science Vs faith.

An interesting aspect was the introduction of Belhor who one day approaches Mr g in “The Void” and begins to philosophise on the minutiae of the universe that has been created. We are fed hints that this is the devil or perhaps a second side to God himself, one that stirs debate on whether God should intervene in the lives that have blossomed in Aalam-104729. Much is discussed on the subjects of death and suffering and while the insights are thought provoking they don’t necessarily lend themselves overly well to a “playful” novel about the creation of the universe.

All too often are Penelope and Deva left to argue over trivial matters rather than lend narrative to the story and, while it’s certainly an entertaining premise, God himself often comes across as a selfish and petulant teenager which undermines the later philosophy discussed.

One thing Lightman does very well, however, is imagine what life must be like away from our own planet. He delves into the possibilities of other species with the skills of a Sci-Fi master. His idea of a society that cuts the nerve endings in the hands of the females so they become dependent on the males is a fascinating idea for fiction and again leads into metaphor and debate.

Mr g is a book that that offers some genuine ideas and asks you to question the world around you. It asks you to question not only faith but science, also. Mr g didn’t work for me in the way it was billed, although I enjoyed Lightman’s writing and ideas.

Published by Corsair. This book was kindly sent from the publisher.

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