The Uncertainty Principle could best be described by saying it’s a “geek love-story.” The main character is a student at MIT whose developing a model for predicting weather patterns. When he’s not breaking into his mentor’s lab to steal information from the guru’s hard-drive concerning the plausibility of his experiments, or arguing with his roommate, Dex, about one theoretical subject or another, he spends a fair amount of time at his Uncle Tony’s house, idly watching as the lecherous man in the middle of his mid-life crisis makes overt come-ons to his brother’s girlfriend. There’s also his grandfather, Artie, who, though everyone thinks is senile and is ignored to the point of abuse, is an inventor of odd appliances. One series of inventions is intended as rape-prevention outerwear for women, though from the description given the items seem more at home in a dungeon torture chamber than in the women’s department of Macy’s.
A great deal of the book is spent “in country,” dealing with the pressure cooker life of an MIT undergraduate. The language used is highly technical, and at times rattles on like a lecture on theoretical physics. There is a lot of theorizing going on here. A ton of verbiage, countless references to the inferiority, or superiority, of other undergrads based upon their “Course” number ? that’s their major of study to you and me. And when the characters do talk, some of the things that come out of their mouths are in a language that is not only foreign to me, but rather dull as well. I’m not saying Frank is a poor writer ? quite the opposite, really. His ability to create a novel out of a subject I avoided like it were the plague while in college succeeded in keeping me reading. But the going was tough, the path unclear at times, and the road signs in a dialect I couldn’t relate to.
Interspersed throughout the novel, like rest stops on a long, lonely stretch of freeway, were these vignettes of humanity in which the main character shed his lab coat, his pretentious aspirations, and contemplated the inconsistency of his life. Life isn’t like science. It’s far more complex; more subtle. Two and two rarely equal four. And I found myself reading and re-reading these passages, marveling at the erudite precision with which Frank wove the scene. I only wish that there had been more moments like these. Perhaps someday the author will take my advice and write an entire novel in this manner.
I can only hope.