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Mr. g A Novel About the Creation

by Alan Lightman

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Mr. g A Novel About the Creation
© Pantheon
“As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe.”

So begins Alan Lightman’s Mr. g: A Novel of the Creation, in which the narrator, Mr. g, recounts the story of his creation of the universe. Mr. g, or if you will - God, lives in a place he describes simply as the Void. His only companions in this vast nothingness are his Aunt Penelope and his Uncle Deva, a pair of bickering yet well-meaning elders who throughout the novel attempt to guide Mr. g in this new hobby of his, the creation of a universe.

Or universes (plural), really, because after fine-tuning the basic elements of both time and space, Mr. g experiments with the act of universe creation - a spin here, a pinch there - until, “After a time, a gigantic number of universes were flhying about - spinning on their axes, throbbing and pulsing, expanding and contracting at fantastic speed.” Before long however, Mr. g, taking Aunt Penelope’s advice, decides to focus on a single universe that he names Aalam-104729 (the Muslim name for “universe” prepended to the 10,000th prime number), in which he not only invests some organizational principles, but also decides that each living thing in the universe will have a sort of soul, an awareness of his or her maker.

What follows is a bit of unsurprising linear story-telling that anyone with a passing familiarity of the book of Genesis might expect - the creation of the stars and the planets, light, matter, and along the way an unexpected visitor by the name of Belhor (he also goes by the name of Fedir or Belial) who shows up to discuss the eventual emergence of intelligent beings in Aalam-104729 and the matter of free will.
Mr. g is a short and relatively breezy read, particularly for a novel that ruminatively bridges the matters of creation and evolution and turns its attention on sticky notions like predestination and free will. That said, Lightman, who in addition to being a novelist is also a theoretical physicist, has the keen ability at times to turn physics into poetry:

"Following my laws for the electrogmagnetic force, each such quivering of charged particles unleashed a flood of polarized photons with kaleidoscopic colors, creating a display far more spectacular than the evanescent veils of the Void. There were cascades and blooms of light, spiraling helices of energy, resonant oscillations of quark clouds. And the most eerie sounds: ultra-high-frequency moans and rips and dissonant crescendos as the gaseous plasma filling up space shuddered with each passing shock wave and compression of energy.”

Lightman also employs the perspective of his narrator uniquely to shed light on philosophical matters of existence, as in this Creator’s-eye-veiw of the passage of time and impermanence:
"Nothing was lasting, nothing was permanent. Living creatures, beings with minds, were the most fleeting of all. They came and went, came and went, came adn went, billions upon billions of lives, each quick as one breath. Atoms converged in their special arrangements to make each precious life, held together for moments, then scattered to dull lifeless matter again."

A huge and potentially contentious topic turns beguiling in Lightman’s deft hands. While drawing from Muslim, Hebrew, and Christian apocrypha for some of his nomenclature, he manages to steer clear of delving into any specifics of religion, instead marrying a more generalized notion concerning creation with current theories in the realms of physics, astronomy and biology. Lightman’s ability to abstract principles both scientific and philosophical and then filter them through the eyes of an all-powerful yet humble narrator makes Mr. g a fascinating thought experiment.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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