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Mobius Dick

Author: Andrew Crumey

Cover design: Marie Lane   Cover illustration: Tigran Tsitoghdzyan  

I loved it! Just exhilarating!

Fay Weldon

'Ingenious' is far too pallid a term of praise for this cunningly contrived entertainment, which may sound ponderous in outline but is actually a breeze, by turns slyly comic and oddly melancholy. For most readers, the soundness of its science will be of small consequence; as fiction it is solid plutonium, and unflaggingly enjoyable.

Kevin Jackson in The Sunday Times energy which makes this a real page-turner.

Paul Pickering in The Daily Express

the most rewarding book I have read all year.

Scarlett Thomas in The Independent on Sunday

Andrew Crumey manages to make complex ideas seem simple, and he has that commodity so rare among sci-fi writers - a sense of humour. He has already won critical acclaim for his earlier novels and deserves a wider readership. This novel combines the intellectual parlour games of David Lodge with the unnerving prescient vision of JG Ballard.

Sebastien Shakespeare in The Literary Review

There's no room here to do justice to the density of ideas Crumey unpacks with admirable lightness.

Colin Waters in The Sunday Herald

It would be nice to think that this magnificent piece of work stood a chance of winning the Booker. It is certainly my novel of the year.

John O'Connell in Time Out

In some ways this is an edgily modern book, with Dick's namesake, Philip K Dick, among its guiding spirits. Admirers of Flann O'Brien's fictions will be struck by the beguiling ways in which Crumey uses unreliable narrators and worlds within worlds. In another sense the novel reaches back to a Renaissance aesthetic, in which art and scholarship, if not quite the same thing, are mutually adoring twins or lovers in a fable. Refreshingly, this is a novel in which science is a central character rather than a metaphor for something else.
That said, it isn't a boffin-fest but a glitteringly original piece of storytelling, unapologetically intelligent, driven by tightly focused narrative skill. It is also acerbically funny, peppered with digs, while an Orwellian irony makes clear that the questions implied are not about some imagined culture, but concern the one in which we wake up every day.
There is a winning sense of spaciousness in the writing, a feeling that the words are pouring out spontaneously. This quality is all the more impressive because the ideas are complex: indeed, those of us who are a bit rusty on Heisenberg's interpretation of wave functions may sense we're missing out. And even readers who marvel at Crumey's expansive, frisky prose may feel the allusion to cultural titans becomes a little relentless: Melville, Thomas Mann, Foucault, Nietzsche and Lacan are all name- checked in the first few pages. ("Writing about writers is best avoided," comments Dick's therapist. This isn't advice Crumey would tolerate.) But while Mobius Dick is a work of sophisticated erudition, its playfulness and artistry make it a page-turner, too. It is perhaps the only novel about quantum mechanics you could imagine reading while lying on a beach.

Joseph O'Connor in The Guardian

a wise, funny, alert and original novelist.

Jonathan Coe

a fascinating and vertiginously entertaining novel.

Sean O'Brien in The Times Literary Supplemant

Crumey is a talented writer and a major brain.

Clememcy Burton-Hill in The Observer

'I have a weakness for Andrew Crumey's novels. I call it a weakness because I've noticed that, when reading them in waiting rooms or on trains, people look up angrily whenever I laugh. There's much to laugh at in Mobius Dick. Like a magical conjuror, Crumey keeps all manner of subjects - chaos and coincidence, quantum mechanics, psychoanalysis, technology, telepathy and much else - whirling amazingly in the air.'

Michael Holroyd in The New Statesmen's Books of the Year

In Mobius Dick, the narrative becomes a series of coincidences that we interpret as we wish, and all things are real only insofar as we want to see them that way. Under the skin of this teasing lurks a concern for the reputation of artists, and the role of chance in building the career of great musicians and writers. If Brahms had been ugly, would he have stayed playing the piano in a brothel? If Buddenbrooks had sold poorly, would Thomas Mann ever have been heard of at all? Andrew Crumey's work has been highly praised and not widely enough read for too long. In all the possible futures that exist for this intelligent, witty and accomplished writer, a wider readership should be more than just a matter of chance.

James Wood in The London Magazine

When the physicist John Ringer receives an anonymous text message saying "Call me: H'', he thinks it could be from his former lover Hannah. What follows is a playful piece of scientific and literary conjuring, with Schrödinger, Schumann and Melville all folded into three increasingly bizarre interlocking narratives. The central plot hangs on a quantum computer buried deep under a Scottish mental hospital that Ringer fears might just produce "the biggest bang in 14 million years'' - or, worse, entangle our reality with other possible realities, turning "the planet, perhaps the very cosmos itself, into a joke, which God alone might laugh at''. The author has a PhD in theoretical physics, so you feel you're in safe hands, even as he leads you on a merry dance through the madder fringes of scientific conjecture. I'm not sure my grip on non-collapsible wave functions was any firmer by the end of the novel, but it was certainly a stimulating ride.

Jonathan Gibbin The Daily Telegraph

John Ringer receives an inexplicable text message that reminds him of a long-forgotten lover. On his way to a remote Scottish town to give a talk on quantum theory and mobile phone technology, a further series of coincidences leads him to question just how purely theoretical his findings are. Interspersed with Ringer's experiences are those of unfortunate amnesiac Harry Dick and - amongst other real and imagined historical characters - Schrodinger, who is on holiday searching for the wave equation that will revolutionise physics. As the parallel stories become linked in bizarre and unpredictable ways, with brain- teasing recurring themes and subtle allusions, the implications of quantum computers malfunctioning for the space-time continuum become increasingly relevant. Mobius Dick is fascinating, erudite and witty. Not only is it a thriller based on quantum mechanics, it covers literature, politics and philosophy. And it even has sex in it too. What more could you ask for?

Anna Shipman in The List

A brilliant exposition of the possibilities lurking in quantum physics and an aggressive take on how the idea of 'great art' is losing currency. It's an absolute sin that this book didn't win last year's Man Booker Prize.

Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski in The Independent on Sunday

Crumey switches between the stories of John Ringer, a university lecturer in quantum physics; and Harry Dick, a man who wakes up in hospital having lost his memory. Alongside these are extracts from novels by one Heinrich Behring, often featuring Erwin Schrödinger. There are contradictions between the different narrative tracks, and once again, the intrigue comes from seeing exactly how these will be resolved. Science and art are intertwined in Mobius Dick, with the sense that both are different ways of addressing the idea of ‘reality’. I like that approach, and I’ll be reading more of Crumey in the future.

David Hebblethwaite in Follow the Thread

Worlds collide when a university professor stumbles across a machine that threatens the fabric of the universe. Readers with a deep interest in theoretical physics, applied philosophy and alternative histories may dig this imaginative but demanding speculative novel by Scottish writer Crumey. The central mystery is carried forward by physics professor John Ringer (whose name is just the first instance of Crumey playing with identity), who receives a mysterious text on his “Q-Phone” that simply reads “Call me: H.” He wonders if H. is actually Helen, the former paramour who disappeared after leaving him. Once Crumey has set up Ringer’s visit to a remote town called Craigcarron to give a talk about noncollapsible wave functions, he introduces interstitial chapters from invented novels by author “Heinrich Behring” that concern, among other things, composer Robert Schumann’s confinement in a mental hospital and the intellectual struggles of physicist Erwin Schrödinger, he of the famous cat. Crumey also introduces a "Harry Dick," who is confined to a nearby mental hospital, suffering from a new illness that causes victims to lose the ability to separate fact from fiction. Ringer soon learns that a murky corporation has launched a machine powered by quantum technology that could potentially violate the laws of physics. “We would all be like Schrödinger’s cat: an unresolved mixture of possibilities, in a box from which no power of heaven or earth could ever free us,” he muses. “It might take no more than a poor alignment of those nickel-tantalum mirrors to cause the fatal leak of doubt. Then once it spread, there would be no more truth or falsehood; no fact or fiction.”

An intellectually nimble doomsday scenario that makes all those worries of creating an accidental black hole at the Large Hadron Collider sound benign by comparison.

Kirkus Reviews

RRP: £9.09

No. of pages: 312

Publication date: 28.06.2014

ISBN numbers:
978 1 909232 93 8
978 1 910213 05 6

Rights sold: Czech Republic (Argo)