Book Review: The God Particle (2005)

Advanced particle physics may not seem the vehicle for a novelist to address the conflict between science and religion. Yet that is exactly the approach Richard Cox uses successfully in The God Particle.

On the surface, The God Particle tells the stories of two men. Steve Keely is a California businessman who suffers a severe head injury when he falls three stories from a window while on a business trip in Switzerland. Mike McNair is a physicist who heads up the world’s largest superconducting super collider in Texas and the search for the Higgs boson, a hypothesized subatomic particle known as “the God particle” because it is believed to be the component of a field through which all other particles move. (In a concluding note, Cox gives credit to a similarly titled work by Leon Lederman, the 1988 Nobel laureate in physics, as the inspiration for this book).

Yet The God Particle is more than a fiction-based exploration of theoretical physics. Whether we go back to Galileo’s conflict with the Catholic Church or today’s debate over teaching evolution or “intelligent design,” it seems we perpetually face certain core questions. Do we look to science or religion to try to understand the essence of life? Is there an area where the two converge and become indispensable to each other in addressing that question?

Cox explores these issues in a way that does not make this a pondering philosophical tome. Not only is the work straightforward, it is evenhanded and balanced. Still, it is far from flawless. About a third of the way through, I knew generally how and why McNair’s and Keely’s paths would cross. There also seems to be a few too many diversions into sexual matters, whether it be obsessions or encounters. For the most part, they do not add to the story and seem more titillation than to advance the story.

Overall, though, The God Particle is an enjoyable read that raises — and encourages the reader to think about — such issues as belief (whether in religion or science), fate, and the existence of a common core to life and the universe.

Perhaps insanity is reality no one else can see.

Richard Cox, The God Particle

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