Audiobook Review: Mr g: A Novel about the Creation by Alan Lightman

28 03 2012

Mr g: A Novel About the Creation by Alan Lightman

Read by Ray Porter

Blackstone Audio

Length:4 Hrs 52 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Mr g may not be for be for listeners looking for a typical story, the author’s fascinating concepts and the narrator’s talents makes this an excellent change of pace listen for fans of high concept science fiction.  

Grade: B

Is it possible to believe in God and science? If you truly buy into the hyper extreme glorified opinion shows that masquerade as television news, the answer is no. There is a war against good god fearing people and the weapon they are using is science. They are forcing children to discover that they are really descended from monkeys, while criminalizing prayer and baby Jesus in the manger. Of course, this is the response of years of science being held hostage by religion. How often do we forget that the constitution was written to ensure that religion and the state are never put next to each other on the plate of American life? This is the debate I hear often, because it is so obvious that these two things, a belief in a reality beyond our understanding can never sit comfortable next to a logical and scientific world view. Until, of course you get a few beers into you. I attended an institution that is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity, a college that encouraged a liberal and healthy discussion of both religion and science. The rare Christian organization that wasn’t scared of Darwin. One of my favorite discussions topics, with some of my friends as we were drinking or just hanging out is the reconciliation of God and Science. It is truly a topic that fascinates me.  As a science fiction fan, who was raised in a fundamentalist church, I often search out authors like Robert J. Sawyer and Arthur C. Clark who will challenge the beliefs that were ingrained into my brain as a child.. Challenging your beliefs is never easy, and often causes pain, but it’s the good kind of pain that allows you to grow as a human being.

Mr g is less of a story than a thought experiment. It is a metaphysical tale of God’s creation, not just of the universe, but of existence in general. Here, God as a character is generally benevolent and omniscient, but can be frustratingly naive. His main advisors and only other being at the novel’s start are his Uncle Deva and Aunt Penelope. They serve in various, often contradictory roles, like most members of a family. When God invents time, Aunt Penelope complains about the effect, which forever alters the way she perceives existence. Uncle Deva is the encouraging Uncle, who often serves as God’s conscience. These two characters offer a balance to God, and while their advice isn’t always the best, it is always heart felt. When God creates The Universe, and places the laws of physics in place, it also brings about his chief nemesis, Belhor, who uses logic and pseudo psychological arguments to prevent God from interfering in the natural evolution of life, and its potential for good along with evil and suffering. As God explores his universe and the sentient but mortal life that spring up, Alan Lightman’s background as a physicist shines. We discover plethora of variation from physical diversity to the development of consciences. Yet, the true conundrum for God comes when he discovers that those who brought about with the best of intentions often suffer. One of the main causing factors of their suffering is their mortality. Lightman’s blending of religion and science in this creation tale is quite fascinating. In many ways it seemed to me to be a counterpoint to Jose Saramago’s Cain, in which God is the antagonist. While you won’t find much of a plot here, beyond the observations of an all seeing deity over his creation, and the occasional conflicts with Belhor, what Lightman does display in his loving rendition of a strange family, and intricate descriptions of the blossoming of the universe, along with a touching look at the individual’s desire for more gives the listeners just enough to stay willing participants in this journey.

In a book like this, which is almost 90% exposition, with only a little bit of dialogue and character interaction along the way, having a good narrator was essential. Luckily, we had Ray Porter to guide us on this journey. Porter infuses God with personality, making him sound accessible and real. Porter’s narration allows us to view God the character as the well meaning, but naive deity that I believe the author intended. Porter carefully guides us through discussions of complex mathematical and physical concepts with a natural ease. He doesn’t handle these like a professor speaking down to his students, but in a conversational tone, like a good friend was explaining something tailored for your understanding. I also loved his interplay between Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva, crafting the couples loving relationship and their conversational dueling with organic ease. While Mr g may not be for be for listeners looking for a typical story, the author’s fascinating concepts and the narrator’s talents makes this an excellent change of pace listen for fans of high concept science fiction. 

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2 responses

28 03 2012
Laurie C

I have this book, but not on audio, so I can’t read your whole review yet, but I guess a B is still good, though not great. Maybe book will come across better than audio.

31 03 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

Okay, so this sounds fascinating. I wonder if my library has it….

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