Zig Zag: A Novel Hardcover – Mar 29 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Somoza (The Art of Murder) combines elements of SF, horror and suspense in an ingenious novel with an original intellectual premise that delivers a megaton of action and adventure. In 2015, Madrid physics teacher Elisa Robledo receives a phone call that plunges her back 10 years to a time when she worked with famous Spanish physicist David Blanes. Blanes theorizes that by using quantum physics and string theory he can build a machine that will enable researchers to see the past. Elisa joins Blanes and a small team of scientists on New Nelson, a mysterious island where they realize all of Blanes's theories. After intriguing glimpses of dinosaurs and Jerusalem during Jesus' lifetime, the project begins to go seriously awry. People die, the lab explodes and in the end everyone is taken away and ordered never to speak to each other again. Then things get really bad. While not quite up to Michael Crichton standard, this page-turner is sure to please thrillers fans. (Apr.)
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“It never occurred to me that playing with time could have such terrifying consequences. This novel reveals them all.” (Javier Sierra, author of New York Times Bestselling The Secret Supper)
“Literate, savvy, tense, and thoughtful with plenty of atmosphere. It’s a pleasure to read a Jose Carlos Somoza novel.” (--Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Templar Legacy and The Third Secret)
“Slices like a serrated dagger. Relentlessly paced, fiercely narrated, brilliantly clever,here is a thriller for the new millennium.” (--James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of Map of Bones and Black Order --James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of Map of Bones and Black Order)
“Magnificent…belongs on every thriller fan’s must-read list.” (Booklist (starred review))
“An ornate rumination on the razor-thin line between satisfying one’s scientific curiosity and violating the laws of nature.” (Booklist (starred review))
“...A scrupulously researched and terrifying scientific thriller...it’s impossible not to be hooked.” (Miami Herald)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Though in his acknowledgments Somoza denies wanting to write a scholarly work on string theory, he does such an excellent job of explaining this fascinating branch of physics that even someone like me, whose knowledge of that science is limited to the effects of gravity, can understand what's happening. What kept me reading, even through the occasional and relatively rare obtuse periods that run through the book, was the fact that, almost from the beginning, it scared the pants off me without producing a real live bogeyman until close to two-thirds of the way through.
ZIG ZAG moves back and forth in time, covering a 10-year period beginning in 2005 and ending in 2015. The focal point of the novel consists of a complicated but intriguing physics experiment dealing with time. Time travel to the past, at least at this point, is considered to be impossible. What a team of scientists attempts to do is to view events of the past in real time rather than visit them, utilizing the string theory. The experiment, known as Zig Zag, is financed by a somewhat shadowy, not entirely benevolent child of the so-called military-industrial complex, which is interested in the results for possible national security applications.
There is also a strong interest in keeping the scientists under observation because of the concern that viewing the past in real time may well result in some sort of unfortunate after-effect upon the observers. And indeed, that is exactly what happens, though not precisely for the reasons originally under consideration. The scientists implementing Zig Zag find themselves dealing with the sudden manifestation of a dark, deadly apparition of unknown origin.
Suffice to say that the members of the team suddenly and inexplicably find themselves marked for death. Over a 10-year period they are horrifically and, as we shall see, impossibly slaughtered one by one. Somoza perhaps is not a literary writer, but he is a riveting storyteller and his plot is the work of genius. Just when one thinks that things can't get worse, they do. And don't think for a minute that things are going to get better.
Somoza writes like the product of a mad collaboration between Shirley Jackson and Michael Crichton, with a bit of Thomas Harris thrown in for good measure. After reading ZIG ZAG, you won't know whether to sleep with the lights on or off. You won't know precisely what I mean by that until you read this tale of the ultimate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
A non-stop, adrenaline-rushing novel from start to finish. The book gravitates around physics, but does not require any knowledge of supersymmetry, branes, or any other terms you are probably not accustomed with. The details are in the book, and the details are mouth-watering. The implications the characters face are serious. Extraordinary, even. Zig Zag is translated from the Spanish, but you would not guess it. The writing is superb and spot on. The suspense is mind-numbing. The 500+ pages are gone before you know it. Fortunately, it's a novel that will stay with you. Once you close the book, you'll smile knowing that Zig Zag is one you're going to be recommending.
Then the horror aspect of the book kicks in and we spend too much time reading about the imminent danger the characters are in but get no payoff, even a small one, to keep us interested. This situation repeats over and over again, danger is coming, tension builds, and then we get something like "...and then things went terribly wrong." We have to wait a while to get to any of it. This way of building suspense just didn't work for me after a while.
I have to also agree with the criticism of the use of the "italic" font. It's not a good choice and hard to read.
Overall the concept of Time Strings is fantastic and it would have been great to explore it more, but the constant references to the main character's "hotness" and the constant "cliffhangers" every time the action picks up just made want to find out the mystery of the story and move on.
As a new graduate, Elisa had been chosen to attend a special seminar dealing with practical applications of string theory. A scientist had proposed that relatively low energies could allow scientists to open one of the many extra dimensions string theory is certain exists--specifically, time. Using special equipment, scientists could capture photons and unwrap them, viewing anything that photon had seen throughout its history. A photon captured at the Pyramids of Egypt could, possibly, reflect not only the current pyramids, but their entire history, even their construction. Project Zig Zag is designed to explore this possibility--with a look at the crucifixion of Jesus high on the list.
Author Jose Carlos Somoza starts off his story with a bang. I enjoyed the mix of mystery and dramatic tension as Elisa realized that her carefully constructed and artificial reality had shattered and as she attempted to come to terms with the new reality. For me, though, the story slows dramatically when Elisa relates her history to her semi-friend Victor. We already know that Elisa survived the mess on New Nelson, which dramatically reduces any sense of tension during the flashbacks that constitute the bulk of the book.
Although authors are certainly allowed to take liberties with science to make a good story, I had a hard time suspending disbelief over Somoza's photon theory. I'm prepared to believe that a photon could carry, in some dimensional sense, its entire history with it. Even with this, imagine a photon generated by the sun's energy a few minutes ago, hitting Jersulem this instant, bouncing off (say) calgary hill and captured in a video camera, In what sense would this photon contain in it any history of some other photon that hit the same calgary hill two thousand years previously, was never captured by camera, and is now, presumably, some two thousand light years from earth (unless it was absorbed in some object, sucked into a black hole, or otherwise destroyed?) The science part of the story has a lot of potential, but it just didn't jell for me.
Somoza delivers a high-potential SF thriller that, I think, falls short of its promise. Too bad because this guy clearly can write.