Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
“Einstein's Desk” by brothers Domenic Melillo & Dr. Robert Melillo is a fascinating mystery thriller with sci-fi elements, at least that's how we'd best describe it. We had very high hopes and expectations for this book as it comes from one of our new favorite authors, Domenic Melillo, who penned one of the best romance novels we'd ever read in “A Major League Love!” Also, apparently, Dr. Robert Melillo is one of the leading brain researchers on the planet.
This book didn't disappoint, but it definitely was quite odd and different from anything we were prepared for—for better or for worse.
What you have here is essentially season four of “Lost." It is full of serious moments that are actually humorous. It is overflowing with over-the-top melodrama including the presence of villainous Nazi special agents akin to “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” along with the prospect of time traveling to meet Albert Einstein himself! This book goes balls to the walls. It's a really weird book that sometimes borders on absurdity, but we can dig weird and we can understand absurdity.
Interestingly, this book starts out very grounded. We're introduced to our main protagonist, Ian Petrie, by his parents. His parents are both worried and hopeful due to Ian being born and growing up with several health problems and eccentricities which they mistake for autism. Ian is actually a very intellectually-gifted child with a pension for thinking outside the box, recognizing patterns, and solving abstract patterns. Ian's parents are told by an expert that Ian isn't autistic, but rather shows many of the eccentricities shared by super-geniuses like Albert Einstein. In fact, he directly compares Ian to Albert Einstein, so much so that Ian grows up looking up to and idolizing Einstein, learning and knowing everything about the famed genius.
Or so Ian thinks...
And here is one of the many alluring mysteries of this book: what secrets might Albert Einstein have taken with him? Furthermore, who is the mysterious recipient of Einstein's last known correspondence, a correspondence which implies he may have come up with a grand unifying theory of physics that he never revealed? What would have happened if Germany or the surviving Nazis had possession of Einstein's knowledge of potential nuclear energy? Is there something even more dangerous than nuclear weapons? What special relationship if any might Einstein have had with Nikola Tesla, another brilliant scientist and visionary who—historically speaking—criticized Einstein? Could Einstein have really made time travel not only theoretically possible but also practical?
To avoid some of the spoilers to these questions, don't read the rest of this review. Just check out this cool book on Amazon!
For the rest of you who are sticking around to read this review, we're going to try to just do what we always do: be thorough, thoughtful, and fair. There may be some spoilers ahead, so be forewarned.
Anyway, Ian Petrie is a compelling enough protagonist for several reasons. One, he's a super-genius who demonstrates an impressive pension for figuring things out. That's always something we love to see in our protagonists: they use their wit. Another thing about Ian is that he is quite human, not so dissimilar to Einstein himself in his lust for women, but Ian is almost definitely a better lover to Angelina than Einstein was to either of his wives. If you're not aware, Einstein was not very kind or loving to his first wife, Mileva, or to his children, one of whom he put up for adoption because she'd get in the way of his career (we don't even know this daughter's fate) and the others who rarely saw their father. He also continued to cheat on Mileva, eventually with his cousin, Elsa, whom he eventually married.
These things are a little interesting to note as this book seems to portray Einstein as most of us see him: in a very idealized light. He is seemingly “the most” and “the greatest” of everything science-related—the Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, or Tom Brady of science. What we often forget is how flawed a person he was, and that there was a lot of context missing from his discoveries. For example, people often consider him the father of the atomic bomb, but he had nothing directly to do with the Manhattan Project that constructed it, just coming up with the relationship between energy and mass, thus the ability to release energy from matter.
This book continuously portrays Einstein in about as idealized a light as you could imagine. Yes, there are times when he does show a human side that defies this notion of him being some kind of omniscient psychic being whose intellect far surpassed all others. For example, despite the grandfather (and other) paradoxes that he must be aware of, he still asks how he will die—something which the real Einstein didn't seem all that concerned about when he actually did die (refusing surgery).
There are so many other layers of this beautifully chaotic book. For example, we get a glimpse into the time in Einstein's life when the Nazis ruled. We even see that his life is intricately entangled in the conflict between Hitler's Germany and the rest of the world, as stored away in his (and, in some contexts, Nikola Tesla's) mind is knowledge that could lead to the building of superweapons: laser cannons, atomic bombs, and even antimatter weapons—weapons that would make even nukes appear like a candle by comparison. It's a bit... over-the-top, but there's some truth behind it and a degree of this which is grounded in reality. After all, Einstein's discoveries made the atomic bomb possible, something which—in the hands of someone like Hitler—would have put the whole world in danger. In this fictitious but believable telling, a fresh generation of Nazis are after this research, hoping to use it to bring the world to its knees and create what they even call a “Fourth Reich.”
Another layer of this is the mysterious recipient of Einstein's last correspondence at Princeton according to this book.
His name is Clarence, and Clarence parents have a real good marriage. As fate would have it, it turns out that Clarence is not only still alive, but he's also still at Princeton, and he happens to run into our protagonist, Ian, who ironically questions him about Einstein before knowing who Clarence really is.
Anyway, Clarence can't spill all of the beans because he gets home-office-invaded by some home-office-invaders who push him into a state of delirium through drugs or something, and by the way, these home-office-invaders work for the Nazis or the FBI or something. That's right, our hero has the Nazis and the FBI on his tail, and it's humorous how lightly the characters sometimes take this.
Speaking of character, there's also Dr. Mills and Angelina. Dr. Mills is basically Alfred from Batman or Jarvis from Iron Man. He's this wise old man who clearly knows what's going on, but just facilitates the butt-kicking by the main hero. Angelina is a beautiful, gorgeous, punk-rock-looking Croatian woman. We know this because the authors constantly remind us that she's a beautiful, gorgeous, punk-rock-looking Croatian woman. She is, in fact, so beautiful, gorgeous, punk-rock-looking, and Croatian, that our protagonist considers getting into punk rock and moving to Croatia. She also has a photographic memory or something. She's spunky in her own way, sometimes teasing Ian.
There's also Mario Ducati, the clearly evil guy pretending to not be evil who commissions them to do research for him. We couldn't read his name without saying, “It's-sumi, Mario!” And there's the Fuhrerin, who is supposed to be written as a sick, sadistic villainess but instead comes across like she belongs in a different kind of novel entirely (the “Fifty Shades of Hey Now” type).
This is a really chaotic and pretty wild book that takes a high degree of suspension of disbelief, but if you can get to that point, you can enjoy this in the way you'd enjoy something like “Lost."
If you enjoy some mind-bending, imaginative fun, then check this out on Amazon!