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Duchamp Versus Einstein by Christopher Hinz and Etan Ilfeld. Book review

November 3, 2019


Book cover of Duchamp Versus Einstein

1917. After an evening out, involved in a spot of harmless anarchy, Marcel Duchamp is drawn into a dark alleyway by a mysterious voice. 1905. Albert Einstein is startled by the sudden arrival of a woman able to transform her appearance and seemingly able to emit her own light. It is the beginning of a bringing together of two individuals used to challenging the received wisdom of their day, and their contribution in affecting the future.

I always enjoy real life events and historical figures being brought together in interesting ways and blended with fantasy or science fiction writing. That Duchamp and Einstein pushed intellectual boundaries and perceptions created the potential for a narrative of intriguing possibilities.

However, I felt that these possibilities were not as fully explored as they might have been. Short stories or novellas need to pack a great deal into a small space. This is something the authors have tried to do. The resulting compression of the ambitious narrative concept means that the main protagonists, Duchamp, Einstein and the mysterious woman are not fleshed out enough for the reader to become emotionally invested in them, and intriguing elements of the plot were not as fully explored as they could have been.

Having said this producing a novella/short story in this way is a brave move on Angry Robot’s part, and one which should be tried again. Also, given that Christopher Hinz has had the opportunity to redevelop Anachronisms (published in the 1980s), as the soon-to-be-published Starship Alchemon, then Duchamp Versus Einstein may yet have scope to be revisited and fully realised.

Overall I did enjoy the experience of reading Duchamp Versus Einstein, because it gave me food for thought and was entertaining.

Duchamp Versus Einstein was courtesy of Angry Robot

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