jeremy's Reviews > Mr g: A Novel About The Creation

Mr g by Alan Lightman
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's review
Jan 29, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction
Read in January, 2012

alan lightman's mr g is an imaginative and vivacious work of fiction. lightman, mit professor and theoretical physicist, has authored over a dozen books (including five previous novels). his most well-known work is 1993's einstein's dreams, a fantastic book exploring varying conceptions of time. mr g, lightman's first novel in nearly five years, features no less weighty a subject than the origins of the universe.

the book's title character has existed for eons in the void, with little company save for his aunt and uncle. upon his decision to create a universe (or many of them), mr g embarks upon setting about rules that this proposed universe shall follow. after time and space come inanimate matter, only to be followed by the resulting animate matter that evolves therefrom. as self-determined trial and error create an ever-expanding universe, mr g begins to struggle with questions of morality as he witnesses the suffering that eventually befalls his mortal creations. mr g encounters belhor, his shrewd and crafty counterpart, who continually challenges his motivations and sympathies.
what's more, there was still plenty of room for the mysterious. because even if a very intelligent creature within this universe could trace each event to a previous event, and trace that event to a previous event, and so on, back and back, the creature could not penetrate earlier than the first event. the creature could never know where that first event came from because it came from outside the universe, just as the creature could never experience the void. the origin of the first event would always remain unknowable, and the creature would be left wondering, and that wondering would leave a mystery. so my universe would have logic and rationality and organizational principles, but it would also have spirituality and mystery.
while lightman is himself an atheist, mr g considers a universe created by a sentient and puissant being, albeit one content to let matter evolve however it might. mr g is more of a laissez faire creator, as opposed to one commanding worship and obedience. lightman incorporates a fair amount of science and philosophy into the novel and even veers into the theological realm. the work is clearly not meant to persuade or proselytize, but instead offers thoughtful musings and piquant observations on the enigma of life and its origins. while perhaps not as consummate an effort as einstein's dreams, mr g is, nonetheless, an ambitious and ruminative novel about the genesis of the universe. with moments of charm, wonder, and occasional humor, lightman's sixth novel will gratify anyone open to the billion years-old mystery of the cosmos.
nowhere is the joy of existence so apparent as in music. from one star system to the next, intelligent life-forms have created a multitude of sounds that express their exhilaration at being alive. there are waltzes and scherzos, apalas and calgias, symphonies, madrigals, fanbeis, sonatas and fugues, bhajans and dhrupads, tnagrs and falladias. the music dances and glides and swoops. not that all of it is melodic or soft. but even the dissonant and the jarring contain a rapture, an ecstasy, an embrace of existence.
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