Final Theory (novel)
|Original title||Final Theory: A Novel|
|Genre||Science fiction, Techno-thriller|
|June 3, 2008|
|Media type||Print (Paperback, Hardcover)|
|ISBN||1-4165-7287-2 (first edition, hardcover)|
Final Theory is a 2008 techno-thriller novel written by Scientific American editor Mark Alpert and published by Touchstone Books. The novel fictitiously posits that Albert Einstein actually achieved his life's ambition of discovering a unified field theory. If he had been successful in developing this theory, it would have large consequences to the world, including the development of a weapon of mass destruction. Final Theory is Alpert's debut novel.
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The narrative begins with the brutal attack on the aged theoretical physicist Hans Walther Kleinman by Simon. Simon was acting on the orders of the mysterious Henry Cobb to extract information on the Einheitliche Feldtheorie - the unified theory that Einstein worked during his last years. Dr. Kleinman was one of the four close students of Einstein and one of the secret keepers of the great theory. David Swift, a former student of Kleinman, and a professor of History of Science at Columbia University was summoned to the hospital where Kleinman was undergoing intensive care after his attack. Just before succumbing, he pulls David close and wheezes two words in German: "Einheitliche Feldtheorie" and tells him a sequence of numbers. Soon, Swift is intimidated by Lucille Parker, a sixtyish FBI Agent who is also after the theory. Simon attacks the garage where the FBI held David, and David escapes.
Meanwhile, the FBI takes Karen, David's ex-wife and his son Jonah into custody. David on the other hand, succeeds in boarding a train headed for Princeton. He decides to meet an old friend of his, Monique Reynolds a string theorist at Princeton University. Monique at first is skeptical about his story. David soon comes to know of the deaths of two close students of Einstein, Jacques Bouchet of the University of Paris and Alastair MacDonald, who was under treatment for mental disorder. The sequence of numbers that Kleinman gave David, pointed to the location of The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where another close student of Einstein, Amil Gupta worked. They decided to tell him the news, and head to Pittsburgh. Simon and the FBI succeeds in following them to CMU.
At CMU they meet Gupta. Gupta's late wife was a Holocaust Survivor whom Einstein had helped to bring to Princeton after World War II. His only daughter is a drug addict and he lives with his autistic grandson, Michael who is obsessed with playing Warfighter - a program used for combat training. Knowing that FBI has been following them, David, Monique, Gupta and Michael, escapes in a H1lander. They head for a hunting cabin in West Virginia, where Kleinman spent some time a few years ago with Gupta and Michael. On the way Simon chases them, and narrowly avoids an accident. Meanwhile, Karen and Jonah are released by the FBI. Lucille Parker discovering David's escape, sends Agent Brock (who also works for Henry Cobb) and an assistant to the cabin. On the computer in the cabin, David's group finds references to Gupta's daughter's residence in Columbus, Georgia. They are soon intimidated by Brock and his assistant. In the commotion that follows, Brock's partner dies and Brock and Gupta get seriously wounded. David, Monique and Michael escapes from the cabin on Gupta's suggestion. Meanwhile, seeing that the FBI is getting nowhere with the case, the Delta Force is asked to take over. Simon soon arrives and takes the weak Gupta and Brock. He takes Gupta to a local doctor and saves his life, where Gupta tells him that he is Henry Cobb.
Meanwhile, David's company is rescued by a group of hunters who gives them shelter. They soon head toward Columbus. They meet Gupta's daughter, Elizabeth Gupta - a drug addict who works as a prostitute. She is agitated on the mention of her father's name and tells them that Kleinman (who was her godfather) hated him. She also tells them that Kleinman worked for a while in the VCS (Virtual Combat Simulation) office in Fort Benning. David decides to go to Fort Benning thinking that Kleinman hid the theory in one of the computers there. Meanwhile, the FBI arrives in Columbus and Lucille Parker succeeds in tracing them to Fort Benning.
David's party arrives at Fort Benning and gets access to VCS Office. David with the help of a VR goggles starts playing Warfighter, hoping to find the theory in one of the levels. Meanwhile, Gupta also enters Warfighter remotely and tries to get hold of the theory. David attempts to sabotage Gupta's plan and in the process, erases Warfighter and the theory. But Kleinman had built an escape hatch for the file which saved the data on a flash drive. They escape with the flash drive into the mountains nearby. During this time, Brock succeeds in abducting Karen and Jonah.
David and Monique starts reading the contents of the flash drive. Einstein had used differential topology to describe the unified field equation in the theory. He had found out that all particles are geons and had successfully predicted the mass of all fundamental particles, which was one of the hallmarks of a theory of everything. Einstein had built his unified theory around the Holographic Principle. He had worked out the exact equations for the universe (as a brane), how it evolved and explained how everything got started. If our brane was twisted enough one could sent particle's from one point in the universe to another. The returning particles can trigger a violent warping of the local spacetime, leading to release of huge amounts of energy which can be used as a weapon. Einstein had worked out equations for all this. This was the reason why he never published this theory.
David then realized why Simon and the FBI were after him. They destroy the flash drive, in an attempt to destroy the theory. But Kleinman had made Michael memorize the whole theory. David realized that the numbers that Kleinman whispered to him pointed to Michael and not to Gupta. The FBI soon arrives and they escape. Monique is soon caught by Gupta and Simon. David is also intimidated by Gupta using his son and ex-wife as hostages. He along with two of his former students, had devised a plan to send particles like in the theory. But he still needed the field equations in the theory. For making the particle beam, they had decided to use the Tevatron in Fermilab. They soon reach Fermilab and takes over the Tevatron control room. Meanwhile, Brock is left with David, Monique, Karen and Jonah. In a fight between David and Brock, Brock falls into burning mineral oil and dies.
Although Gupta's interests were purely academic, Simon wanted to revenge the murder of his wife and children by the US troops and decides to use the technology against the country. He locks Gupta in a room and proceeds to take control of the experiment. David, meanwhile was devising a plan to shut down the Tevatron. He succeeds in shutting down the Tevatron by smashing the beam pipe and in the process kills Simon. Meanwhile, Gupta becomes hysterical and kills people near him with an Uzi. The FBI agents soon kill Gupta. Michael is left to the custody of Monique who gets engaged to David.
- David Swift : A professor of the History of Science at Columbia University.
- Monique Reynolds: A string theorist at Princeton University and friend of Swift.
- Amil Gupta/Henry Cobb: A close student of Einstein and chief antagonist of the story.
- Hans Kleinman: A close student of Einstein and Swift's former mentor.
- Michael: Gupta's autistic grandson.
- Simon: The assassin and shtarker employed by Gupta.
- Elizabeth Gupta: Gupta's daughter.
- Karen: ex-wife of Swift.
- Jonah: son of Swift.
- Agent Brock: FBI Agent who also works for Gupta.
- Lucille Parker: FBI Agent in charge.
The novel received mixed reviews. The New York Times's Janet Maslin criticized the novel by saying "Though its dialogue sometimes name-drops quarks and geons, nobody in "Final Theory" sounds so smart once the running begins ... And the book’s scientific expertise is eventually neutralized by that blunt, overall style". The Sunday Times spoke of the book as "an entertaining, if fairly predictable, chase, laced with murder and mayhem...a lightspeed read with not too much mass". Douglas Preston described the book as "One of the finest science-based thrillers to appear in a long time".