Sunday, June 17, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Speculation by Edmund Jorgensen

Release Date: December 22nd, 2011
Publisher: Inkwell & Often
Page Count: 264
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via Novel Publicity, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!), as part of the Speculation book tour

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.

Andrew's wife Cheryl doesn't see this as much of a choice. She wants Andrew to take the money, and what little patience she has for his speculating about what could be worth more than ten million dollars is wearing thin very quickly.

But as Andrew digs deeper into the secret life that Sothum lived, he finds more questions than answers. Does the envelope contain the fate of a vanished mutual friend? The answer to a terrible cosmic riddle? The confession to a crime? Is Sothum just playing a final private joke? Or has Andrew become a pawn in a game—a game that Sothum died playing against a bigger opponent than Andrew can imagine?

What Stephanie Thinks: Genius is madness. Brilliance is insanity. Before I rave about this one (caution: my review may be slightly, just slightly messy, flooded, enthusiastic to the point of irritation, hazardous, et cetera, et cetera), let me just say: Speculation is an absolute work of literary genius. I'm still baffled and scratching my head about how Jorgensen has managed to package a mystery and intellectual thriller into carefully-coined novel surrounded by intense allure and philosophy, but whatever his secret is, I'm not complaining.

Philosophy is a topic I thought I'd always want to stay away from. I'm a fairly logical and distinctly passionate person—it's hard to win an argument with me if you really get my blood flowing, if I do say so myself—and math and reason have always been my forte, but when I took my first philosophy class in high school, I discovered I simply could not stand that feeling of being unsettled, of not being able to solve everything and anything like I could in Algebra. Philosophy was something I thought I could really enjoy, but it ended up being one of the hardest courses I ever took, because it was the one I could never, for the life of me, wrap my head around. It's something I, even to this day, consider a field that only prodigies like Plato, Socrates, and Sothum (unseen and only heard from, yet still the most important character in the book; more on him later) can truly be successful at. I don't know if it's eternal patience or some sort of gene in their DNA that makes them able to figure out such wonders of the world or what, but I guess that difference is what associates me with Andrew, our other main character, a professor of philosophy, and separates me from Sothum, who would identify as a legitimate philosopher.

Like Andrew, I experience cheap thrills when I talk about philosophy, but am not so gifted as to actually be able to instigate it. Sothum as a character, and the valuable points he presents, impresses me to the point of awe. I can't even begin to tell you how eerily accurate and just staggering his mindful contributions are. Had we a character like him in real life, I feel he'd be the modern Einstein. Which brings me to think, what does that make Jorgensen? The creator of a fictional genius—is he a genius himself? A fucking god? I don't know. But that's the vibe I'm getting right now.

Anyway. More about the book. The structure is pretty leisurely, drawing out scenes heavy with dialogue and weak in action over a span of a few weeks, yet it is complex because multiple perspectives come into play to constitute it, and it isn't just Andrew's that seems to matter. Mostly I would say this book is composed of flashbacks and random (but brilliantly remarkably genius) musings, and I love that about it.

Jorgensen's definitely a way with words; while his style isn't phenomenal, it's good enough to keep me reading and the story in tact. He's quite a few amazing moments—it was hard for me to pick just one quote in my Stephanie Loves section!

Some other random stuff I love about this book (bear with me, most of this is what I furiously jotted down onto the title page while reading because I couldn't bear to put it down, nor could I risk forgetting all my thoughts, because after such a mind-blowing read, it was bound to happen): the secondary characters. Cheryl, Andrew's immensely grounded wife, is a dynamic character I enjoyed getting to know, who's all of kickass and lovable. Buddy, one of Andrew and Sothum's acquaintances (the third of their Three Wise Fools, as they call themselves) exudes a natural but so very real dislikability, which, go figure, made me like him (a little). Jorgensen certainly displays his ability to bring a story to life in Speculation, down to the last illumination of the senses and tug of the heart. Complete with jarring revelations of Sothum's death, of Andrew's present, swirling, nostalgic recollections of a developmental and significant past, Speculation is a meandering dissertation on not only philosophy, but also on logic, emotions, and arguments between religion and mathematics.

Andrew's decision to either take the money or the sealed envelope (and SPOILER SPOILER There IS a decision, this isn't one of those dumb books where it's open-ended and the author says 'it's up to you to decide what our protagonist does next') isn't even what is most important in Speculation. Rather, Jorgensen's contemplations of, through the resonating characters of Sothum and Andrew, the essence of money, the implications of interpersonal relationships, secret lives, time, and ultimately, in life, what truly matters most, are most expressive.

I certainly would read this one again, but I think the story and plot would be ruined for me, just because I know how it ends, and because I know how significant it is. That's the only reason why I'm not giving it my special crème de la crème award (aka 10 hearts puahaha). There's nothing Jorgensen could have done to better it, because it's just the nature of the book; unfortunately, for me, it might thus be a dull second-read. But seriously, everything else about it is absolute perfection, at least in my philosophy-philic mind. I'd reread it solely for the purpose of inspecting and overanalyzing (again) the pure written prowess of Edmund Jorgensen through Sothum's ability to completely fuck my brain over. Maybe as a piece of fiction, it could fade out, but as an utter paragon for philosophy, I'd say it's a keeper.

Stephanie Loves: "Habit and routine are what make my life possible here. My stepfather used to say that the difference between the two was that routines were hard to get into and habits were hard to break. He may have been right, but these days I can't notice much that distinguishes them. I would sooner break my leg than one of my routines, and my days are so fully planned that they leave little room for new habits to creep in."

Radical Rating: 
9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥