April D. (Monroe, NC)
Although many readers may at first think this book is an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, The Book of God and Physics is in many ways a better and more philosophical read.
The main character and narrator, Father Hector, a science teacher at a Catholic school, continually grapples with issues that many people still face today including whether faith and science can ever truly coexist. Discouraged by the lack of interest of his students, Father Hector finds intellectual stimulation through an online community studying the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript a real manuscript which is now housed at Yale University. The manuscript is believed to have been written in the 1400s and contains a manufactured language that has never been translated.
Through his juxtaposition of the historical figures of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler and the modern-day Hector, Joven skillfully blends truth and fiction to create a top-notch scientific thriller.
Diana C. (Delray Beach, FL)
Although chock full of intricate astronomical and astrological statistics and references, this novel is highly readable and entertaining. Following the main character (a Jesuit priest) and his acquaintances throughout their quest to decipher the ancient text called the Voynich Manuscript, keeps the reader not only interested but often times surprised with the story's twists and turns. This book is definitely not recommended for the reader wanting a quick story with no thought-provoking and educational material. For readers who loved The Flanders Panel, The Last Secret of the Temple and The Rossetti Letter, this one's for you.
Carole C. (Conyers, GA)
Ciphers, stars and evolution....
Not quite a page turner, but just about perfect summer reading. This factually based novel was a captivating read. The author had me hooked within the first 30 pages. It is a well researched and well written story spanning centuries of a cipher mystery surrounding an ancient manuscript and the modern group of internet collaborators trying to solve it. In addition, the interwoven stories of the current debate of Evolution versus Intelligent Design; the life of a teacher with one shining and inquisitive student; an insight into the Jesuits perspectives on creation; and, a love story.
The modern world juxtaposed with the still unsolved medieval ciphered Voynich manuscript. The pace of the book picks up in the last third as the reader travels to several locales in the final chapters. The feeling of time pressure and excitement is rather reminiscent of the DaVinci Code.
Care is taken by the author to present his characters and the context in colorful detail. You can sense the dark of the underground passages and feel the rain falling and skies darkening.
Full of historical tidbits about the stars and the work and lives of great scientists and their observations...which are examined in the context of allegations of an alleged undiscovered murder.
The writer so well developed the layered story lines and mysteries that he created an expectation for greater resolution than was given. The sequel will be on my reading list.
Karen M. (Great Falls, VA)
The Voynich Manuscript Explored- Possible Spoiler
As a lawyer, I love a great mystery about actual ancient documents. The "Rule of Four," "People of the Book," and "The Last Witchfinder" spring to mind as excellent examples. But it takes more than an ancient document to make an excellent mystery. It takes an accomplished creative writer to take the nonfiction information and weave it into an exciting tale. This is the author's weakness in this book.
Enrique Joven, the author of this book is an engineer, science and technology writer. The first 200 pages reflect his expertise in the style of his writing. It is filled with facts and details, but not much character development, plot movement or pacing. Until the last third of the book, the reader is just being fed data.
In addition,Joven and his alter ego, the Jesuit priest Hector, are very upset with the American authors Joshua and Anne-Lee Gilder for their book, "Heavenly Intrigue." He believes that his beloved Jesuit priest, Johannes Kepler has been slandered by the couple in the book they published in 2005. And Joven takes quite a few opportunities to complain about the couple and their theories and anyone who gave credence to them (like the Washington Post). Using this book to answer the Gilder's charges was a distraction and felt preachy (pun intended). Intelligent Design versus Creationism is also discussed, another didactic diversion unrelated to the plot. The book needs editing. Is it a mystery or the expansion of a blog piece?
But in the last 100 pages, the book starts to hum. The various attempts to decipher the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, held and studied at Yale University today, are fascinating. Joven sets Father Hector, and the two fellow enthusiasts that Hector meets on a Voynich site on the internet, off to decipher the text. Lots of air miles ensue as they travel to great European sites that provide clues for the group to interpret based on the areas of expertise held by each character.
The book also contains an illuminating discussion of Jesuit history and the Order's contribution to science. And even though I am somewhat learned in the history of the interdependence of astronomy and astrology through time, Joven provides more intriguing data. It is the above accomplishments that convinced me to give the book a "Good" rating.
This is not a good "beach" read. But it would be a nice alternative to watching the Discovery Channel.
Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)
The past can be present tense
This is a historical novel, not in the usual sense of time travel to the past, but rather the solving of a puzzle using clues from history. Like all good literary puzzles, the intellectual tour is at least half the fun; we learn lots about the history of astronomy and visit Spain, Italy and the Canary Islands. The rules of literary (as opposed to genre) thrillers seem to preclude plot-quickening devices, such as exploding helicopters. So, sometimes the plot seems thick with clue-providing conversations, the characters having impressive stores of historical knowledge at the ready recall. History buffs will enjoy reading the book with a notebook in hand, to keep dates, people and places sorted out, sketching the web woven as the book unfolds. For many of us though, the afterimage of the book will be the estrangement of science and religion and the essential task of reconciliation.
Dana W. (Elbridge, NY)
The Book of God and Physics
Fact and fiction,history and present day and an unsolved manuscript - it's all a reader could ask for. This is not a beach book however. It takes some time and effort to sort through the explanations of who's who, who was who and who tutored who, in the age when astrology and astronomy were connected to religion,king and country.
Barbra W. (Dexter, MI)
The Book of God and Physics
I enjoyed this book. The characters were believable and well developed. The story was interesting and moved along at a very good pace. The author did a great job of mixing in astronomy and astrology, keeping the topic at a level that I (no background in either subject) could understand and that was relevant to the overall story.
All in all a very enjoyable read.