Magazine article The Spectator

Being Mysteriously Interfered With

Magazine article The Spectator

Being Mysteriously Interfered With

Article excerpt

Being mysteriously interfered with

THE HESPERIDES TREE

by Nicholas Mosley

Secker, L15.99, pp. 311

I have never read anything quite like this extraordinary book before. It is about a student who, even by student standards, is preoccupied by the nature of life and the possibility of our reality being subject to 'interference' from other realities. His idea relates to an experiment demonstrating wave-function that many readers may have observed in science lessons at school. Light fed through two slits produces not, as one might expect, two narrow bands of light, but a whole array of bands. It shows that light is composed neither of particles nor of waves, but of one or the other, depending on the circumstances. A professor in this novel claims that the experiment shows how different universes `have affected one another, however weakly, through interference phenomena'. The implication for humans is that `we are part of infinitely complex interactions'.

The Hesperides Tree is an ambitious attempt to apply this theory to human nature. The narrator travels between Ireland (where a run-down cottage inherited by his mother is being used by gun-running terrorists) and an English university where he is torn between Biology and Literature as tools to explain how humanity works, and `how it might be changed'. Meanwhile, on an island close to the cottage in Ireland scientists are using their own methods to uncover the reason for evolutionary changes in a species of bird. Our narrator's father has been making a documentary about this work and wonders, if animals mutate in response to changes in their environment, do humans too?

Plotwise, there's a lot going on: in the course of his travels, the narrator meets an aristocratic computer whizz-kid with whom he discusses cyber-reality. He gets a lesbian activist pregnant, occasioning a debate about abortion. …

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