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Zig Zag: A Novel by Jose Carlos Somoza
Translated by Lisa Dillman;
Review by Don Metzler
Harper Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061193736
Date: 01 August 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

They ripped his eyes out. Tore off his genitals. Cut off his arms and legs.... He was still alive when they ripped his face off.

A group of scientists is stalked by an unnamed terror from the past, or is it from the future? How can one know where the terror originates, when the fabric of time itself has been altered?

The year is 2005, and Elisa Robledo, a graduate student in physics, has been offered a prestigious position with an elite research group, code named Zig Zag. The focus of their research is so highly secret that Elisa is not allowed to know all the facts until after she has already signed confidentiality documents, and been whisked away to a remote island in the Indian Ocean. All she knows is that she will be working with renowned physicist David Blanes.

Several years earlier, Blanes had devised a mathematical formula that raised the possibility that the "strings" that form the basis of string theory might be open-ended, and that with precise manipulation these strings might become portholes that can be used to view the distant past. The theory had never been proven. But when Elisa arrives on New Nelson Island she learns that Blanes' theory is now much closer to realization than anyone knew, and that the purpose of this research group is to perfect the process.

Incredibly, Elisa and her colleagues soon find themselves peering through windows into the past. On the other side of the windows are Stone Age landscapes, dinosaurs, and the city of Jerusalem during the time of Christ. Then things begin to go horribly wrong. One of the physicists is murdered, and another goes missing. The project is abruptly discontinued, and the members of the team scatter across the globe.

Now, ten years later, some unknown creature is stalking them again. The former colleagues reunite, determined to learn the origins of the beast that has haunted their lives.

Zig Zag is a brilliantly thought-out and plotted thriller. From page one, the reader is pulled into the frenetic lives of this group of physicists who find themselves under attack not only by the ageless monster that they somehow called into being, but also by an elite special police force who are bent on keeping the whole affair a secret from the public, even if that means sacrificing the very people they were originally pledged to protect.

The mathematics and science that form the basis of Zig Zag have been intensively researched. The tenets of physics and string theory that are presented here are well-grounded in contemporary scientific thought. And the presentation is so powerful that the reader begins to lose track of the boundaries between what most of us assume to be reality, and what reality may actually turn out to be.

The translation from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman is expert and flawless.

Zig Zag is much more than just another thriller. It is a book that will ask the reader to carefully ponder his or her own assumptions about life and the universe, while at the same time being led on a wild ride through the sheer terror that is inflicted on the characters. This novel is heartily recommended.

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