Not long ago, for my business course, I had to do some market research for ‘competitive’ projects; books or other media that were somewhat like mine but not so much. Acknowledging there’s anything out there remotely similar is difficult; whoever wants to admit that their stories aren’t actually unique? One’s first instinct, often, is to point out differences; no, that’s not at all like what I did. My characters are like this. Etc.

While browsing through time travel fiction on Amazon, though, I encountered a novel called Discipline, by Paco Ahlgren I’ll admit I clicked through, at first, based on its cover; it really is a good-looking book, with a well designed (if rather vague, now that I think about it) cover. Its description mentioned quantum mechanics, time travel, and Buddhism, and I was all kinds of like “Sold.” It also mentioned chess, which is up there with golf in terms of activities I just don’t get, but I figured, hey, I’ll give it a go anyway.

The novel follows Jasper Cole as he learns about some unique abilities he has. It’s approximately like The Matrix, story-wise, except without the Matrix thing itself, which I liked; Ahlgren sets everything pretty much here and now, and its ‘fantasy’ elements can be explained away to quantum physics/mechanics. Uncertainty principles and the like.

This is an idea I’ve been fascinated with; the question of reality, and what it means. There are places where philosophy and quantum physics supercollide, and this novel is sort of about them.

It’s not perfect. There are some long sections of pretty much completely expository dialogue, where one character explains something to another pretty much for the sake of the reader. Cole, too, comes off like a whiny little bitch sometimes because his mentors feel, at moments, that he is not yet ready for new concepts, which would be fine except one gets the impression Ahlgren is simply holding his cards just yet, which makes Cole reader-proxy. It clunks down at times, and it neither starts nor ends well; I get the sense it’s because it’s the first in a planned series, but still it could have satisfied more.

At the same time I ordered Alhgren’s, I ordered Caprice Crane’s new book, Forget About It. The premise is rather awesome; a girl with a life she doesn’t much like gets into an accident, so she fakes amnesia for a ‘do-over.’ I was a huge fan of Crane’s first novel, Stupid and Contagious, with which this new one shared its wit and charm.

It isn’t quite without its problems, either; for a do-over, its protagonist, Jordan, starts down pretty much the same path she’d led before. She’s a bit of a pushover (which is part of the premise), but she also seems like she tries her best to avoid every confrontation she could have with people. Which is true to life, certainly, but novels aren’t life.

Overall, I enjoyed it for what it was; light and fun, with some romance and plenty of humor.

So what was the last good book you read? I’m looking for suggestions for my next read.

And by the way, A couple new photos (again of fountains) over at Imagery.