Strange Attractors GN Review Written by: Charles Soule Illustrated by: Greg Scott Cover by: Dan Duncan Colored by: Art Lyon and Matthew Petz Lettered by: Thomas Mauer Reviewed by: Ross Rivers
Summary:In 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! Includes a bonus section of complexity maps created by Robert Saywitz.
Review:I love New York. Or, rather, I love the idea of New York (I’ve never actually been there before). There are countless stories set in New York that are just as much about the city, as they are about the characters. Look at Marvel, for example; would Spider-Man be the same if he was in Miami? Would Daredevil be the same if he was in L.A? The history, both fact and fiction, of New York has created something that’s almost alive. A city that breathes stories.
This is kind of the idea presented to us by Charles Seoul in Strange Attractors. That of a living New York.
The story starts off simply enough, with our protagonist Heller meeting with the disgraced professor Brownfield in a cafe. Heller has searched Brownfield out, in the hopes that the good professor can expand on the work Heller found hidden in the university’s library and help him create the best thesis possible.
But Brownfield is disgraced for a reason. The guy’s kinda nuts. Not so nuts that he pooped in everyone’s coffee mug and called it hot chocolate with lumps, of course. He’s the right kind of nuts. The kind of nuts that makes a great character.
So, Heller explains that he studies complexity theory and his thesis will be about how New York recovers from disasters. Basically maths and stuff.
Brownfield has his own business to take care of, though. Mostly taking a rat out of a box and throwing it around the cafe.
Of course, there’s a reason for this. See, Brownfield wasn’t dismissed by his peers because of an incident with the coffee mugs, no. He was dismissed because he believed he could save New York by altering small things throughout the city over time, in order to prevent huge disasters. These are theories that tend to be looked down upon by “logical thinkers.” And when you rant and rave about them, they get you kicked out.
Brownfield uses the complex chaos theory math type stuff to predict when huge, disastrous events will occur by looking at how the city behaves. He takes into account the way people react to the heat wave, how the traffic stacks up and so on. It’s all very interesting, I assure you.
See, Seoul has taken an idea that could be very complex and VERY boring and he’s made a genuinely fun and interesting story out of it. He puts in just enough maths and theories into it to give the story credibility while keeping most of it out, to help the story constantly move forwards at a pace that some writers can only dream about. Although, I don’t know how sound any of the theories are so it could ALL be fiction for all I know. If it is, it’s presented in a way that, while being a bit fantastical, is still believable.
Besides the interesting plot, we have characters that are both intriguing and easy to relate to. Heller is torn between writing a simple thesis that will get him an easy job and life with his girlfriend, and helping Brownfield with his work to save the city. Work he continues to doubt, since Brownfield is the sort to expect one to believe right away, without proof.
While these doubts and conflicts make Heller a great character, this book does have moments where it can grate on you. Heller can be a little bit whiney, even after a little proof is seen but the majority of time spent with the character is a pleasure, making the problems with him seem incredibly small.
It’s actually quite uplifting, watching these people try to save a city that means so much too so many people. It’s not another one of those dark, gritty books that seems to have flooded the market over the years; it’s a reminder that dark and gritty isn’t always needed for interesting, grown up plots and characters.
As much as I’m praising Seoul’s writing here, it’s Greg Scott’s art that really brings the tale to life and, in a lot of ways, makes it what it is. Remember how I said the whole concept could have been stupidly boring? Well, Scott’s artwork is one of the main reasons it never gets stale.
Scott gives the whole book some extra imagination, helping to create this living, breathing New York. The work on the maps seen throughout the book, used by the two protagonists to predict stuff in the first place, is especially nice to look at and the process behind the creation of these maps can be found in the back of the hardcover.
Art Lyon and Mathew Petz provide some of the best colour work around in this book, helping some incredible art look even better. They help make each panel look its best.
Long story short, I think you should pick this up. It’s a fun read with an interesting story and great characters and it’s freaking beautiful.
Editor's Note: To find out how you can get yourself a copy of Strange Attractors, head on over to Archaia!