Zig Zag: A Novel

( 4 )

Overview

While studying advanced physics at a prestigious European university, Elisa Robledo was invited to join a select research team on a secret project to manipulate String Theory. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for the eager young scientist—the chance to actually view monumental events from the far distant past: dinosaurs roaming the Earth, life during the Stone Age, the crucifixion of Christ. But on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, the team's experiments went horribly ...

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Overview

While studying advanced physics at a prestigious European university, Elisa Robledo was invited to join a select research team on a secret project to manipulate String Theory. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for the eager young scientist—the chance to actually view monumental events from the far distant past: dinosaurs roaming the Earth, life during the Stone Age, the crucifixion of Christ. But on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, the team's experiments went horribly awry . . . and something terrible was awakened.

Now, years later, Elisa's former colleagues are dying, one by one. The nightmare they created by meddling with Time is taking a shocking and gruesome toll. And only by uncovering the sinister truth behind the science can Elisa hope to survive the dark, devouring forces that mean to destroy her and the world she knows.

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Editorial Reviews

Javier Sierra
“It never occurred to me that playing with time could have such terrifying consequences. This novel reveals them all.”
—Steve Berry
“Literate, savvy, tense, and thoughtful with plenty of atmosphere. It’s a pleasure to read a Jose Carlos Somoza novel.”
—James Rollins
“Slices like a serrated dagger. Relentlessly paced, fiercely narrated, brilliantly clever,here is a thriller for the new millennium.”
Booklist (starred review)
“An ornate rumination on the razor-thin line between satisfying one’s scientific curiosity and violating the laws of nature.”
Miami Herald
“...A scrupulously researched and terrifying scientific thriller...it’s impossible not to be hooked.”
--Steve Berry
“Literate, savvy, tense, and thoughtful with plenty of atmosphere. It’s a pleasure to read a Jose Carlos Somoza novel.”
--James Rollins
“Slices like a serrated dagger. Relentlessly paced, fiercely narrated, brilliantly clever,here is a thriller for the new millennium.”
Javier Sierra
"It never occurred to me that playing with time could have such terrifying consequences. This novel reveals them all."
Steve Berry
"Literate, savvy, tense, and thoughtful with plenty of atmosphere. It’s a pleasure to read a Jose Carlos Somoza novel."
James Rollins
"Slices like a serrated dagger. Relentlessly paced, fiercely narrated, brilliantly clever,here is a thriller for the new millennium."
Booklist (starred review)
“An ornate rumination on the razor-thin line between satisfying one’s scientific curiosity and violating the laws of nature.”
Miami Herald
"...A scrupulously researched and terrifying scientific thriller...it’s impossible not to be hooked."
Booklist
"An ornate rumination on the razor-thin line between satisfying one’s scientific curiosity and violating the laws of nature."
Publishers Weekly

Somoza (The Art of Murder) combines elements of SF, horror and suspense in an ingenious novel with an original intellectual premise that delivers a megaton of action and adventure. In 2015, Madrid physics teacher Elisa Robledo receives a phone call that plunges her back 10 years to a time when she worked with famous Spanish physicist David Blanes. Blanes theorizes that by using quantum physics and string theory he can build a machine that will enable researchers to see the past. Elisa joins Blanes and a small team of scientists on New Nelson, a mysterious island where they realize all of Blanes's theories. After intriguing glimpses of dinosaurs and Jerusalem during Jesus' lifetime, the project begins to go seriously awry. People die, the lab explodes and in the end everyone is taken away and ordered never to speak to each other again. Then things get really bad. While not quite up to Michael Crichton standard, this page-turner is sure to please thrillers fans. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This is an uncomfortable book to read: consisting of long episodes of tension punctuated by intimations of horrific mutilation and torture, it creates a pervasive sense of unease that may be too intense for some readers. Others may simply find this near-future tale has too little action for their tastes. A group of scientific researchers, mostly theoretical physicists, use string theory to look backward in time. In the process, they discover that some malevolent being has been brought through and is killing each in turn with an unimaginable brutality. Somoza, a psychiatrist by training, spent time talking with physicists in his native Spain, and his research shows in his clear descriptions of scientific concepts. He has written several novels, including mysteries, thrillers, erotica, and psychodrama. The Art of Murderand The Athenian Murdersare currently available in English. Recommended for large fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/06.]
—Karl G. Siewert Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
A group of scientists try to manipulate time and space, with deadly and far-reaching results. The story spans 20-plus years, from 1992 Milan to 2015 Madrid, where physics professor Elisa Robledo teaches string theory (the conceptual challenge to Einstein's Theory of Relativity positing nine additional spatial dimensions) and is an enigma to all around her. She seems to have no romantic partner, no friends and never loses her calm or has a hair out of place. Abruptly, a cryptic message (at first unexplained to the reader) fills her with terror and a belief in her own imminent death. The story flashes back a decade, when Elisa was an ambitious college student. She becomes the protegee of brilliant professor David Blanes and, presumably because of her beauty, attracts the attention of a loopy scientist named Maldonado. These three and a handful of others undertake a secret project dubbed "Zig Zag," attempting to tweak string theory and, by extension, the parameters of space and time. (In the novel, the roots of this experimentation go back more than a decade, to Italy.) Chapters alternate between the work done for the Zig Zag project in 2005-complete with charts and graphs and theoretical discussions: "History is what happened already, but the past is still taking place"-and present problems menacing Elisa and her associates. These include shadowy figures, mysterious phone calls and, worst of all, the deaths of several others who worked on the project. Elisa appeals to her colleague, esteemed science professor V'ctor Lopera, to help her learn the truth. Can she avoid becoming the next victim?As in previous novels, Somoza (The Art of Murder, 2006, etc.) tweaks literary conventions andmetaphysical matters as much as scientific theories. The suspense and thrills he creates are deliciously intellectual rather than visceral.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061193736
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/29/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

José Carlos Somoza was born in Havana; his family moved to Spain when he was one, and he remains there today. A psychiatrist by training, he has won several awards for his novels, which have been published in thirty countries.

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Read an Excerpt

Zig Zag A Novel
By Jose Carlos Somoza Rayo Copyright © 2007 Jose Carlos Somoza
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-119371-2


Chapter One Madrid March 11, 2015 11:12 A.M.

Exactly six minutes and thirteen seconds before her life took a drastic, horrifying turn, Elisa Robledo was working at something quite ordinary. She was teaching an elective on modern theories of physics to fifteen second-year engineering students. She in no way intuited what was about to happen. Unlike many students, and even a fair few professors for whom the setting proved formidable, Elisa felt more at ease in the classroom than she did in her own home. That was the way it had been at her old-fashioned high school and in the bare-walled classrooms of her university, too. Now she worked in the bright, modern facilities of the School of Engineering at Madrid's Alighieri University, a luxurious private institution whose classrooms boasted views from the enormous windows overlooking campus, perfect sound from their superb acoustics, and the rich aroma of fine wood. Elisa could have lived there. She unconsciously assumed that nothing bad could happen to her in a place like that.

She couldn't have been more wrong, and in just over six minutes she would realize that.

Elisa was a brilliant professor who had a certain aura about her. At universities, certain professors (and the occasional student) are the stuff of legend: the enigmatic Elisa Robledo had given rise to a mystery everyone wanted to solve.

In a way, the birth of the Elisa Mystery was inevitable. She was young and a loner; she had long, wavy black hair and the face and body of a model. She was sharp and analytical, and she had a prodigious talent for abstraction and calculation-characteristics that were key in the cold world of theoretical physics, where the principles of science rule all. Theoretical physicists were not only respected, they were revered-from Einstein to Stephen Hawking. They fit people's image of what physics was all about. Though most people found the field abstruse (if not wholly unintelligible), its champions always made a big splash and were seen as stereotypical, socially awkward geniuses.

Elisa Robledo was not cold at all. She was passionate about her teaching, and she captivated her students. What's more, she was an excellent academic, and a kind, supportive colleague, always willing to help out in a crisis. On the surface, there was nothing strange about her.

And that was what was so strange.

People thought she was too perfect. Too intelligent and too worthy to be working in a mediocre physics department at a business-oriented university like Alighieri, where no one truly cared about physics. Her colleagues were sure that she could have had her pick of careers: a post at the Spanish National Research Council, a tenured professorship at a public university, or some important role at a prestigious center abroad. Elisa was wasted at Alighieri. Then, too, no theory (and physicists love theories) adequately explained why, at thirty-two, almost thirty-three (her birthday was in April, just a month away), Elisa was unattached, had no close friends, and yet seemed perfectly happy. She appeared to have all she wanted in life. No one knew of any boyfriends (or girlfriends), and her friendships were limited to colleagues with whom she rarely if ever spent free time. She wasn't conceited or even arrogant despite her obvious good looks. And although she accentuated her attractiveness by wearing a whole range of perfectly tailored designer clothes that often made her look downright provocative, she never seemed to be trying to hard to attract the attention of men (who often turned to gawk when she passed) with the clothes she wore. Elisa spoke only about her profession, was courteous, and always smiled. The Elisa Mystery was unfathomable.

Occasionally, she seemed unsettled. It was nothing concrete: maybe a look, or a momentary dullness in her brown eyes, or just a feeling she gave people after a quick conversation. As though she was hiding something. Those who thought they knew her-Noriega, the department chair, among others-thought it was probably best that she never reveal her secret. For whatever reason, some people, regardless of how insignificant their role in others' lives, or how few close moments they've shared, are unforgettable. Elisa Robledo was one of them, and people wanted it to stay that way.

Professor Víctor Lopera, one of Elisa's only real friends, was a notable exception. Sometimes he was overwhelmed by an urgent need to unravel her mystery. Víctor had experienced the temptation on several occasions, the most recent being last year, in April 2014, when the department decided to throw Elisa a surprise birthday party.

Noriega's secretary, Teresa, had come up with the idea, and everyone had jumped at it, including some students. They spent a month enthusiastically preparing, as if they thought it would be the ideal way to infiltrate Elisa's magic circle and touch her ephemeral surface. They bought a cake, balloons, a giant teddy bear, and candles shaped into the number thirty-two; the chair even went in for a few bottles of champagne. They shut themselves into the seminar room, decorated it quickly, drew the curtains, and turned off the lights. When Elisa arrived that morning, one of the custodians told her they had called an "urgent faculty meeting." Everyone waited in the dark. The door opened and Elisa's hesitant silhouette was framed by the doorway, outlining her cropped cardigan, tight pants, and long hair. Suddenly, laughter and applause erupted, the lights were turned on, and Rafa, one of her best students, was there recording the young professor's disconcerted expression on one of those state-of-the-art video cameras that was no bigger than a pair of eyes.

The party was brief and made no inroads at all into the Elisa Mystery. Noriega said a few emotional words, people sang the same old songs, and Teresa stood before the camera, waving a funny banner with caricatures of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Elisa Robledo sharing a cake (Teresa's brother, a graphic designer, had made it). Everyone was jovial and affectionate and tried to show Elisa that they gladly accepted her without asking anything in return, except that she continue to enliven them with her mystery, to which they'd grown accustomed. As always, Elisa was perfect, her face an ideal picture of surprise and happiness. She even seemed a little moved: her eyes looked like they'd welled up. Judging from the video, and seeing her perfect body outlined by her sweater and pants, she could have passed for a student, or maybe the presenter at some spectacular event or (as Rafa later told his friends on campus) a porn star winning her first award. "Einstein and Marilyn Monroe, all rolled into one," he said.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Zig Zag by Jose Carlos Somoza Copyright © 2007 by Jose Carlos Somoza . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Everything that is, is past. I bought this book a long time ago

    Everything that is, is past.

    I bought this book a long time ago and then shelved it. Turns out that was a smart move because I forgot the premise completely and was floored the entire time (I have since sworn off reading the book jacket synopsis before I start a book).

    I won't ruin anything for you here, but this is a physics based mystery (string-theory, don't panic!) which quickly becomes engrossing and more than a little terrifying. I really enjoyed the sense of dread and suspense as I read through it. Being a fan of big books, the length didn't bother me, in fact I ate it up, reading the whole thing in only a few days. Consider me a huge fan of this author. If someone could pull it off, this would make a sweet movie. GREAT Thriller!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 27, 2010

    Not for everyone.

    I found this book, very interesting, but I had a hard time understanding some of it. This book isn't for people that don't understand science and time, I got lost in some of the "scientific" stuff and had to research to understand what was taking place exactly, but over all I liked the thriller aspect of the book and found it a book that I would give to some of my science friends.

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  • Posted February 18, 2009

    Out of the box

    I read this when it first came out. A pick to click - smile. Really good story and charactors. It catches you fast and keeps going. Highly recommend. I also recommend Daemon by Suarez . First few pages is interesting the rest is thriller on caffine.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2007

    Fading, fading badly, in the final stretch.

    For the first 200 pages, I loved this book. For the next 200pages, I speculated on it's outcome. For the last 100 pages I felt an increasing disappointment. A clever and orginal premise that tapped into quantum machanics and recent string theory, led, ultimatley, to a replay of 1950's sci-fi films. In this case, however, the ending, like the 100 pages before it, became increasingly murky and undefined. What had actually happened was never clarified. I did read on to find out the fate of the protagonist, but, in the end, was left with less than satisfying speculations. Overall, this book was a disappointment. It started out with great stuff, but it got lost in itself, and, ultimately, it lost me, as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2007

    Wonderful Find!

    Perhaps it is the author's experience as a psychiatrist? His characters are fully developed and three demensional. But the real graber is the excitement, mystery and adventure -- just keeps growing. For most authors to call a work 'intelligent' might crash the story -- not so with Somoza's writting. The mix of mystery, adventure and scientific fact make a perfect tapestry. There are points in many fiction books that reach a moment where 'you don't buy it.' Not so here -- the science is clear and charged with the excitement of discovery and tangible danger. Simply wonderful work! Just kept us up reading out loud all night -- what will happen next?? 'Gulp!'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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