It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for the new novel by David Impey, The October Men, published by Big Bear Publishing on 20th March, available as an e-book and in paperback. It’s not that often that I’m attracted by a mystery/conspiracy thriller, but I thought this one looked really fresh and different with some fascinating themes – thank you to Helen at LitPR for bringing it to my attention, and I do hope I’ll be able to fit in the reading before too long. Let’s take a closer look:
“Have you noticed how many documentaries nowadays on World War Two are in colour?”
Otto Parsons, a brilliant young Oxford physicist, is missing. The October Men is a story of Otto’s experiment in quantum physics – trying to create zero gravity without going into space – which yields spectacularly unexpected results: time travel.
Professor Dan Sibley, ever more desperate to secure funding to keep the experiment running, allows their work to fall into the control of men with an utterly different agenda. Otto’s disappearance is the first link in a chain of events, which tie together monumental historic moments including the sale of a lost van Gogh painting, the discovery of rare film footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the discovery of a hoard of rare art treasures in a French cave, and the murder of a financial advisor in the Cayman Islands.
The scientists initially try to fund the experiment by producing a historical TV series that uncovers the truth behind the Roswell Incident and the assassination of President Kennedy, among others. Inevitably, the show goes viral and attracts unwanted attention. As the project requires ever more funds, sponsorship is sought elsewhere, and control of the equipment quickly passes to a shadowy cabal of international criminals whose activities have global consequences, as they exploit the equipment to take advantage of the financial and art markets.
When the truth slips out, human existence itself comes under threat. Hindsight can be deadly…
I’m delighted to welcome author David Impey to Being Anne, with an excellent guest post on treating science with caution – and how the drive for scientific recognition inspired The October Men…
There is an impression that persists of scientists working tirelessly in the pursuit of ‘Truth’. They develop hypotheses from which theories are devised that they devise experiments to test and, hopefully, prove in order that mankind might learn New Things about the Universe and our place in it. Hmm…
Before getting too bogged down in the philosophical significance of Truth (Kant had a few things to say about it and he wasn’t altogether complimentary), one should bear in mind that Scientists – this mythical race of supernatural beings that inform our activities of daily living – are human. Sort of. They are driven by ambition, the need for recognition, the desire to gain plaudits from their peers and rivals and – the crucial bit – the kudos which is closely followed up by Funding! Yes, gentle reader, money might be a motivator.
Basic research is the real lab-rat stuff. You or, more likely, your professor has a bright idea and you are sent off to determine what, for example, Higgs-Bosons are made of. It’s a colossal piece of work and it will gobble vast amounts of money. Along the way, you will devise a number of experiments to rule out the little blighters being made of cheese, chalk or anything else.
Every time you don’t find something – a negative result is just as important in science as a positive one – you publish a peer-reviewed paper in some hopefully august journal with a high Impact Score, a measure of its scientific importance. You get cited as the Author of that fine piece of work (your professor gets a citation as well – you probably won’t have had your work published in the august journal without his name attached anyway) and your list of journal citations ends up as long as your arm. Before you know it, you’re an Associate Professor and you can start delegating the work to some post-graduate or PhD student. And the citations multiply.
What you have thus contributed to the sum total of human knowledge is a fat bibliography of Things That Are Not Proven. And the planet continues to rotate. But what you don’t care about is whether or not your research, and the papers arising from it, has any consequences beyond your academic institution. What is important is the work, not the effect it might have.
There are a number of areas where the output of research appears to be conducted with disregard of its effect on the wider public. One is food safety and nutrition. For example, there are countless research papers on the consumption of coffee. On the one hand, it’s a good thing: it’s high in antioxidants, it’s associated with a reduced incidence of liver cirrhosis, it’s full of vitamins, improves brain function through the action of caffeine, it can protect against Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and is associated with a reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, it’s a bad thing: it induces anxiety and insomnia, it’s addictive and is associated with withdrawal symptoms (especially headache), it can raise blood pressure, it’s linked to gout, incontinence and fibrocystic breast disease. Furthermore, it may not be healthy for people with type 2 diabetes!
All of these were the result of isolated studies, many of which were funded by whichever pressure group had an axe to grind. And none of them considered the context of coffee in the wider healthcare setting. For example: do the health benefits outweigh the downsides or vice versa? What if you’ve got type 2 diabetes? Should you be worried?
Another more contentious area is in the subject of global climate change. Funding, and subsequent publication, is skewed very much toward demonstrating human influence on changing global temperatures. There is also a very vibrant financial market in carbon trading that depends on this message being promulgated. There has been some research by NASA to suggest that climate change – whilst very real – may be more likely due to other influences such as the sun (Mars has seen similar effects on ice cap reduction, for instance) but this research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
So, the idea in The October Men of some academics – one of which is a has-been trying to regain his pre-eminence in the field – conducting and pursuing research with no thought for its ramifications is a central theme in the novel.
I hope you enjoy reading it.
Thank you David – I’ll look forward to it. Wishing you every success…
About the Author
This is the first full-length novel by David Impey. He originally graduated in Chemistry and, afterwards, worked in high-tech industry either on the marketing/commercial side or in advertising. David has helped write campaigns with a heavy emphasis on demystifying supposedly obscure areas of science that affect everybody on a day-to-day basis and has won several awards for his work.
His first published work was an April Fool’s article in a yachting magazine and, since then, David has been a frequent columnist, contributor to industry journals and online blogs, as well as setting up some and editing others. He also developed a TV series about health called “The Dose”.
When he’s not writing, David is a composer, producer, and keyboardist. He has worked as a musician for 20 years principally as a composer of soundtrack music for corporate clients ranging from sherry to paint to insurance and cruise lines.
Some of his music has been used extensively by TV companies across Europe including the UK and the Netherlands. David lives near Oxford with his wife and insane dog.