"Andrew Wrangles has a decision to make. His best friend Sothum, a philosophical and financial genius, has just died and left him a choice in his will: ten million dollars or a sealed envelope.
About the Author
Edmund Jorgensen was born in Chicago. He studied classical languages and has maintained a love for all things Greek and Roman. He fell in love with his wife in Mexico; they now reside, happily but considerably more chilly, in Watertown, Massachusetts. Edmund is currently hard at work on his second book, a set of interconnected short stories. Connect with Edmund on his website, Facebook, Twitter or GoodReads.
Get Speculation on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
I like books that make readers think. I like plots (screen and paper) that are unpredictable and not some tired old rehash of something the public has been exposed to a million times already. Here is a work that is absolutely refreshing in so many ways - an unpredictable plot, intriguing premise, and nifty framing!!
Edmund Jorgenson is an amazing author - I'm just going to say that right up front. I really enjoyed this book! Why? For the same reason that I enjoy television shows that use "high falutin' " language and do not bother to stop to explain what a word means. For the same reason that one of my favorite television shows is "The Big Bang Theory". I like intellectual challenges, and that is exactly what this book is - a challenge (but in a good way, I promise). Jorgenson uses challenging language throughout the book, which is a good thing! It is rare that I have to look up words when reading a text, and while some would say this detracts from a story, I enjoy having an expanded vocabulary when I've finished a work. That said, the challenging vocabulary in this work is not used in a way that is so challenging it is insulting, nor does it feel heavy-handed. I loved it!
I also enjoyed that much of the text is highly intellectual, stimulating even. My husband and I have discussed ad nauseum some of the topics covered in this book (can God know the future? How does one prove the existence of the Divine? How are we to interact with others?, etc), and it was nice to see so many of these kinds of heady topics come together in one work. Where else can you find arguments about theology, the true value of money, free will, and essentially choosing Door A or Door B all blended within a gripping plot...and have the writing style be such that you are truly drawn in and captivated by the story? Not many places and for that I love this book.
One of the first things I look at when reading is the first line. While that might seem obvious (duh!), I pay more attention to the first line of a work than many due to a creative writing portion of one of my past English classes that emphasized that you either captivate or lose your reader by the time the first period graces the page. Here is the first line of Speculation: "By the time Buddy Johnston vanished, his humiliation had become so abject, and so public, that I don’t suppose many people would have been shocked if he had washed up one morning on the banks of the East River with rocks in his pockets and stones in his shoes." Well, of course this begs a few questions. Who is Buddy Johnston? Why would people not be surprised to find he had either drowned himself or become the unfortunate victim of a rather stereotypical mob hit? Why did he vanish? So many questions and only one line into the work! Way to go, Jorgenson! :)
That reminds me, I also love the way that things are framed in Speculation. Half of the work in writing, at least in my very humble Alaskan opinion, is to say what you need to say in a new way. BUT that new way has to be at least mildly interesting. Here is a line from Speculation: "I stand a hair under 5'11" in stocking feet, but Sothum had a good six inches of perspective from which to observe the beginnings of my early male-pattern baldness." Well, not only do we learn that the speaker is tall, but that Sothum is six inches taller and the speaker is apparently beginning to go bald. That's a lot of info packed into one line, and what a neat way to do so. To say that I appreciate Jorgenson's writing style is an understatement - it is unique, refreshing, and intriguing in a way that makes you think/learn before you realize what is going on.
Okay, onto other aspects of this work: the characters in this work are believable, and for that I am grateful. I felt as though Sothum was a bit like Sheldon from the television show "The Big Bang Theory" - very smart, knows he is very smart - but perhaps a touch less arrogant. The plot moves along and is engaging, and there are unanswered questions that beg the reader to continue reading so that those answers might be found.
The Bugly (Bad/Ugly)
You know, usually I can find many things to nitpick about in the bugly section of my reviews (as you can tell by my other reviews). However, with Speculation I have only two major problems:
1) The main characters' dialog (Andrew, his wife Cheryl, Sothum, and Buddy) tends to blend so that it sounds like the same person talking, particularly near the end of the book. That being said, other characters have clear voices - particularly Mildred and Sothum's high school philosophy teachers - which differentiate them from everyone else.
2) While the plot is intensely engaging, it can be confusing as Jorgenson does not allow it to follow a single temporal line. There are many flashbacks, and sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks, so it can sometimes be hard to tell where in time we are with the narrator. Most of these time jumps are signaled rather well, but a few are a little abrupt.
Overall, I rate this book a 9 out of 10. The only reason it is missing one point is because the temporal jumps made my head spin a little too much in a few places. Other than that, this is an absolutely fantastic read. I might disagree philosophically with characters in a few places, but that's alright. The intensely philosophical parts of the book can get a little long, but Jorgenson uses dialog to break it up so that it does not feel like readers have been tricked into reading a cleverly disguised textbook. It is well-written, makes readers think, and provides much fodder for discussion with others. Despite the fact that my husband tends to shie away from reading fiction, I have strongly reccommended that he (a very philosophical person) read this book. It is worth the time and occasionally having to look up a word. :)
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