Review: Strange Attractors

Strange Attractors CoverIn order to set himself up with a cushy job post graduation, Heller Wilson takes on a subject for his PhD thesis at the behest of his advisor. This leads him to meet with Dr. Spencer Brownfield, a disgraced Columbia professor who spent his career researching Complex Theory, the idea that one can use mathematics to predict large-scale outcomes caused by minute changes in environment. At first, Dr. Brownfield seems crazy, but Heller soon discovers that the doctor’s research might be the only thing keeping New York City from destroying itself from the inside out!

I love math. I also like systems. So, when I first heard the pitch of writer Charles Soule‘s new release from Archaia, my ears perked up. The story takes a very complex idea and boils it down in an easy to understand story. Strange Attractors to me is the flip side of those whimsical tales where stories interconnect and coincidences lead to some great thing. Usually those moments are chalked up to fate or luck, but in this story by Soule, we learn maybe things are a bit more manipulated than we think?

To hear Soule talk, not just about the concept of this story but his love of New York City, you get sucked in. You can tell there’s a special place for the Big Apple in his heart, but at the same time, he’s amazed it works at all. He stands in awe of what’s described as “the greatest city on the planet.” This tale gets you to think about the concept of how that city can even function at the level it does. What does it take to take a complex organism like New York City to work? No matter where we live, we’ve experienced the chaos and spiraling breakdowns as simple as a light being out or maybe an accident forcing us to take a different route. Now think of that on the level of a small place lived in by millions. This story takes that concept, and the complex systems and math that underlies it all, and lays it out to a tale of a new age magician. One that doesn’t do tricks as we think of them, but instead is able to manipulate the surroundings around him to end up with a desired result.

We’ve all heard of the Butterfly Effect, think of that, but with acts that go on around us every single day. It’s a magical story with an underlying dread about it as well as the build up to avoid catastrophe draws nearer. The story got me to pause and think about what it takes for my world to function and function smoothly, and it’s amazing that it functions at all, and that’s part of the point of the book. We take for granted all that we do every day, and few stop to realize the complex systems that have to run perfectly for us to not notice even the hint of issues. It also gets you to wonder what chain reactions you might have caused yourself. It has you think and ask yourself why a city like New York was able to recover from 9/11 so quickly while New Orleans struggles to this day post Katrina. What factors go into making that sort of function happen?

The book combines mysticism with mathematics with a dash of Wildstorm’s Ex Machina thrown in. The energy exudes the pages with art by Greg Scott. As things ramp up and processes break down, his art reflects the build up and dread partially through the brilliant use of color.

Strange Attractors is Soule’s love letter to New York, and through this he shows us some of its magic.

Story: Charles Soule Art: Greg Scott Cover: Dan Duncan
Story: 9.5 Art: 9 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Archaia provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review