(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“…each time he closed his eyes, he pictures working at Juan de Fuca…Down there, in that torrid, turbid world of extremes, how could he discern the workings of a fifth force so slight that it showed itself in traces, in small tugs at the universe? The other four forces are loud and noisy; they hit you in the head, or they blow you up. But the fifth force is like the potential energy of a hummingbird’s wings, only known in its sly beatings. David was self-aware enough to realize that this desire to pin down this hitherto unknown force was, in part, a wish to rule all the elements impinging upon him, even while sensing that they were uncontrollable.”
David Oster is approaching thirty and likes having control over his life. However he wants to do research instead of teaching undergraduates who really don’t care. Specifically he wants to research underwater physics that could lead to fundamental breakthroughs and hopefully later, a Novel Prize. Dream on. This prompts him to leave his postdoctoral position at Caltech and his three girlfriends, (who by the way , don’t know about each other ) to obtain a research position at the Larson Kinne Institute for Applied Physics at the less-than-prestigious Western Washington University.
Instead of putting David out to sea to do research, the director of the institute, Niels Hoekstra, gives him the task of spying on handyman Shelby Burnes who lives across the street from him. David is also given an important “physics” project from the university president that consists of figuring out if the basketball court will be able to handle the weight of prancing horses during a possible, but not probable, victory celebration . These tasks keeps David quite busy. At least he doesn’t have to teach eighteen year olds. Oh wait…How about the “Wet and Wild” class that he’s been assigned to lead? “
Throughout all of this he is befriended by the eccentric, but highly esteemed Vicktor Pelliau, practitioner of fluid mechanics and on the short list to receive a Nobel Prize.
Still, David doesn’t understand these people from WWU. Vicktor explained, “You must understand that people here perfect an eccentric subset of skills. It’s the first line of defense against insanity.” By the way, everyone here drinks…a lot.
These residents and his interactions with them keep reminding David of his own dysfunctional upbringing and his relationship with his alcoholic father. In fact, he tries to classify these men on his “bad guy scale”: a jerk, an asshole and a prick. His father, by the way, was a prick.
That seriousness note aside, you won’t stop chuckling while reading Sex, Rain and Cold Fusion. Along with the quirky characters-and there are a lot of them-the situations and tongue-and-cheek humor make this a fun read.
Oh, I almost forgot…the main plot! David becomes infatuated with an older woman, and there may be an attempted murder that he and Vicktor try to solve. But that really doesn’t matter.
As you can see, it’s those frequent comedic moments that will keep you reading. Oddly enough, author A. R. Taylor is able to keep it hilarious without taking it over the top and all the way to slap stick. That can be a difficult feat.
If you’re like me and have been reading a lot of heavy books lately, Sex, Rain and Cold Fusion will be a welcome diversion. Also, if you enjoy off-beat humor, this is the book for you.