Three cheers for Christopher Meeks and his wildly entertaining picaresque novel about the gentle, bumbling hero physicist Gunnar Gunderson’s quest for love and marriage. Meeks’s work is fresh, up-to-date, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny as my husband would attest in a grumble after being jostled anew.
Captivated I read into the night and repeatedly awoke him with my chortles at Gunnar’s disastrous escapades. Gunnar is a thin, ungainly thirty-two-year-old star physicist who could pass for a student in his popular courses at the University of Wisconsin instead of the professor whose rapid tenure is celebrated at the beginning of the novel. He prefers the certainties of science and research into the reaction of atoms near absolute zero to the somewhat frightening vagaries of human relationships. Stable, dependable, and oblivious to trends or fashions, Gunnar seems destined to be the man most likely to be dumped or told, “Let’s just be friends” by women he finds attractive. Newly tenured and with an unexpected three-day respite from research, Gunnar resolves to meet his soul mate and win his future wife in these 72 hours using the Scientific Method that serves him infallibly in his professional life.
The reader is introduced to Gunnar’s comfortably ordinary and well-grounded family and his fellow bright and nerdy lab partners who share his obsession with strontium atom research and experiments with reactions at minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. Our protagonist embarks upon his mission with a singularity and alacrity that is impressive as he enhances his physical appearance; attempts speed dating with disheartening though hilarious results and pursues his heart’s desire to Denmark. Windmills are lacking in Hamlet’s homeland, but this contemporary Don Quixote is abetted by latter-day squires Carl and Harry who support his pursuit of love in sometimes unsuitable places. True love is as unpredictable as matter reacting to absolute zero.
Gunnar is genuine, compassionate, and likeable. Readers will cheer him on in this engaging study of the clash of pure reason and romance. “Love at Absolute Zero” is an absolute delight and my initial introduction to author Christopher Meeks writing will not be my last. I look forward to reading his earlier books.
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