Review of 'Dante's Equation'

Dante's Equation by Jane Jensen

This book has been sitting on my shelf for ages after picking it up from a remainder's shop in London. It is an impressive tome - A big hardcover of 600+ pages. Such books tend to take a while for me to get to, particularly with an author of whom I am not familiar.

A quick summary of the book…

Jill Talcott is a scientist who comes across a discovery that allows her to manipulate reality towards “evil” or “good”. The government seems set on using it for nefarious means…Little does she know that she is not the first to discover this as a detainee in the Auschwitz camp in the second world war, Yosef Kobinski also managed to figure out the equations but no one has seen him since he (literally) disappeared when escaping from the camp. Rabbi Aharon Handalman is studying the Hebrew Bible for hidden messages and finds a coded warning regarding the power that may be unleashed. Handalman and Talcott (and a few others) track down Kobinski's papers to figure out exactly what he knows but there are other forces at work here. The incident that caused Kobinski's disappearance happens again and they are transported to different dimensions which, oddly, seem to very closely match their personalities. Will they get back? Will they be the same when they get back?

An odd book. Sort of “new age” science applied in a Science-Fictiony way. I found a lot of this “science” hard to follow (the “Kabbalah tree of life” figures prominently here) and quite strange to me which I suppose gave me a bit of an upward struggle to remember the elements introduced here (“chesed”, “gevorah”, and others are mentioned quite often - hope you remember what they are otherwise you will be like me as I flipped back to the diagram at the front of the book). I did find a few things quite contrived and too coincidental that made me stop on more than one occasion (that all of the main characters would be at the same place in the woods at the same time is hard to swallow never mind the off-hand way they are returned to the “real” world).

The first part of the book is quite dry and tedious trying to keep all the threads together but once the characters shift to the alternative dimensions (for their redemption) things pick up quite quickly and the ending wraps things up…Well, not completely satisfactory to me. Hopefully not giving too much away, I thought it was a bit of “let's pretend this didn't happen”.

The characters are believable if very stereotypical (the “evil government” also plays a big hand here) but obviously the author is familiar with the subject matter.

Interesting if not altogether satisfying read.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2013-01-31

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: 2003