(Image Credit: http://www.netgalley.com)
Harry Erickson has an estranged marriage, a thankless job at an assisted living facility, and a doting daughter who puts up with his eccentricities (just wait till you get to the end of this paragraph). But he also is under an unshakeable conviction that Albert Einstein got his Theory of Relativity completely awry. This stubborn persuasion leads Harry to spend eight years ensconced in a damp basement, allowing his wedding to wither and even maintain an irritable equanimity when his house (sole property) burns down in an unfortunate bout of kitchen and Kiev chicken neglect. But undeterred and undaunted, Harry proceeds to come up with a 2,635 page “self-proclaimed” tour de force rebuttal of Einstein. True to both the length of the research conducted without accosting the help of anyone and the depth of frustration caused in the process to everyone, Harry titles his work, “Omnicalcumetry: The Theory of Everything and its Application for Everyday living by Harry Erickson, a New Science for the New Millennium.”
A chance viewing of one episode of the cult Science Fiction series, Cape Canaveral, upends the life of both young Timothy Henderson and his unsuspecting set of parents. Timothy begins doodling with a vengeance, aliens having varying degrees of unnatural sex with willing humans, in various convoluted positions. However things reach a head when Timothy replaces the faces of the procreating beasts and beauties with headshots of his classmates. A confiscation of his exquisite art, a promise to meet a therapist, and a finding of extraterrestrial sex fetish or ETSF later, Timothy’s parents are forced to flee Atlanta by driving 500 odd miles to Bloomington, Indiana, after a spurned therapist (who wanted to use Timothy as the subject of an extravagant study), makes strategic calls to parents of Timothy’s classmates revealing not just the extent of monstrosity and perversion attached to Timothy’s drawings, but the roles and responsibilities of each of their offspring. Timothy gets acquainted with Harry at Indiana, proceeds to get a PhD in Chemistry, gets married and sees it ruined, before spending a greater part of his time matching wits with kids in Massive Multiple Role Playing Online Video Games.
Even if Dennis Drysdale did not know everyone in Bloomington, every resident of Bloomington knew Dennis. You could safely bet that all cars owned by inhabitants of Bloomington invariably rolled out from one of the three dealership outlets owned, or rather inherited by Dennis from his father. Born with a silver spoon or an excellent pair of radial tyres in his mouth, Dennis inherited multiple well established and extremely prosperous car dealership outlets from his father under suspicious if not mysterious circumstances. Such circumstances involved, among other things, causing untold grief to the IRS, making a visit to prison and consequently dropping dead within its confines. Dennis does his own bit to add fuel to the fire by guzzling beer almost every waking moment of the day, and night (when he is not having whiskey that is) and marrying Harry’s divorced wife, Amanda. He even boasts that the day Amanda separated from Harry, Dennis made love to her in a brand new Porsche!
Three men with their own proclivities, penchant and passion. Three men left to rue lost opportunities. Three men with nothing to salvage in life, well almost. On a sunny morning when a trip to Chicago offers a chance for the troika to alter their life in a paradigm shifting manner, they grasp at the opportunity like three drowning men clutching at a solitary straw. But there is a hitch. They would need to make the journey in tandem. Their aspirations would take them to the Physics Department at the University of Chicago, a video game tournament where the best of the best match wits against one another, and a lunch date at a non-descript Panera Bread.
Ben Adams’ “Relativity” is not just a romp. Hidden amidst rib tickling lines that make the reader guffaw, is a beautiful story of life affirming hope. A conviction in the goodness of humanity. A conviction that is as powerful (if not more) as the one nurtured by Harry Erickson towards Omnicalcumetry, the belief nursed by Timothy in the leadership capabilities of Colonel Jackson in Cape Canaveral, and Dennis’ undying obsession towards booze and basketball.
(Relativity by Ben Adams is published by BHC Press and will be available for sale beginning 7th June 2022. Thank you Net Galley for the Advance Reviewer Copy).