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If no one ever comments on your work, everyone will assume that it is awful. I have been lucky to have a few very kind readers who took the time to write a review of my first novel. Here are the most recent reviews:

Bob G texted: “Started reading Apotheosis. And happily. I know you from Quora. Love your disruptive nature. And your raw intelligence. As a father of 2 girls (and a boy), I pay extra attention. Your anger fuels you, but does it get in the way? Or is it too hot to handle? I learn regardless, and don’t judge. You are harsh yet enchanting. But you know that. Strange that earlier this evening I was reading Jabberwocky with my 9 yr old. And then the reference in your book. Entanglements? Ha. Stay strong and find peace. Thanks, Bob G”

Geoff Huffmann wrote:
“Thick, convoluted, and expository at times, the work will suddenly resonate with a stinging clarity. Our adventure as human beings into having machines choose our memories and our experiences, and ultimately our identities, devolves into a kind of skit madness. Alix’s identity is challenged as a child, as a woman, as a professional, and finally as a human being. Along the way, a dark narrative of a humanity that’s lost its ability think for itself weaves through the life of our protagonist. She’s emotionally distant, obviously a physicist, and in love with describing the truths of science she feels is being obfuscated by the bureaucratic inertia of the sciences. And men. Especially men.
In line with the core themes, fragmentation of self and lost identity, modern works appear quite shamelessly, sometimes to hilarious effect. The dreaded cousin from Pride and Prejudice in one exchange made me laugh out loud. Poems from Ginsberg, Dickenson, etc. Linking YouTube videos was really a fun flourish, and added character to the work. This added to the feeling that this “I” was far away, wrapped in a sea of images and songs, poems, and lots of physics.

Perhaps Alix has Aspergers. Many of my friends growing up had this, so I can understand this lack of emotion. Many people won’t though – the narrative might feel unreal, even untrustworthy, because this experience isn’t “normal”. See? I’m looking for a real world explanation in a world where there is no normalcy! Psychology no longer applies under the careful eye of Jabberwocky, Inc.! We can’t help but bring our experiences to art.

Alix, and often the narrator, I feel, is frustrated, and it comes through clearly. Here are some of the frustrations and beliefs (themes, perhaps) I felt came through the work:

Scientists are egotistical, and organized hierarchies of scientists fear true creativity.
Men in science are misogynist.
Women are treated as unintelligent in science, and when they have good ideas, they are stolen.
Human beings, en masse, are doomed to entropy.
Modern physics is wasting our resources.
No matter what, love is worth it.
Nothing good will come from AI.

To me, as written, this is the story of Alix’s incapacity to maintain self in a world beset by confusion of what self means. What can it mean where the Snowflake Method and fountain of youth treatments are normalized? Symbiots?

My attention was peaked with Alix’s experiences with the Echo. The very meaning of real is challenged, and provided some hope to the work, hope of evolution. To me, this was the story that resonated. I’m not a big fan of structure feedback, because I’m no expert. I don’t know what will sell, or get us published; I’m not even going to pretend. But this part, the run up, her struggles with her station at the lab, the Echo, how her idea was stolen, and how she starting winning despite her circumstances was over and above the most approachable part of the work, even if I enjoyed the rest. Towards the end, I had NO IDEA what would be in the next chapter. And with your imagination, there was no hope in that regard. That was fun for me. Some people, this would probably frustrate.

Some feedback:

Be careful with the sudden replacement of our protagonist (in time / place / personality). We’ve spent considerable time investing, only to have that whisked away. We might lose connection to story.

Is your target audience physicists? The intellectual elite? Be careful with thick physics exposition. Fun, but to a sliver of the planet. =)

Allegory is fun, and your work is rife with it. Great job, that’s tough to do.

I was wary of overt references to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I didn’t totally understand why at first, other than to make it clear that the work was following some of the story arcs. This was made stronger by the pictures. Later, I felt it was it was the AI choosing to weave past story into the present reality.

Thank you! This was a joy to read.”

Richard Bennish read an earlier, much shorter version of the story and wrote:

“Kirsten Hacker’s first novel is a much-needed tour de force of iconoclasm. Often hilarious, sometimes cynical, Hacker wraps her mostly dystopian story in metaphor and fantasy that frequently and openly borrows from Lewis Carroll and other literary giants. Setting it apart from other sci-fi fantasy literature, however, is the reality that inspired it: Modern theoretical and high-budget experimental physics—especially as experienced by a woman in the field.

Alix, the story’s protagonist, is the first person narrator. This becomes tricky as personalities and their “timelines” split and get woven back again (or not). On a first read, one does not immediately see this taking place, or how deftly the author manages the complexity. It all makes sense—in a splintered timeline kind of way—the second time around.

The debt to Lewis Carroll is already evident in the character’s name, Alix, and by the underground setting. Alix’s work is focused on “the machine,” the heart of a complex of subterranean structures and dwellings. The futuristic high-energy particle accelerator is run by an assortment of cyborg-like “symbiots” and human beings, whose behavior is often technologically adjusted in a variety of ways. For example, two of these symbiots are the matched pair Dean and Duma: counterparts for Carroll’s Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Carroll-inspired analogs recur throughout the book, not gratuitously, but rather cleverly. Especially entertaining are the nick-of-time appearances of the guardian angel-like character, Chess, the magical cat whose awkward laugh showed “too many teeth.”

Adding to the many ironies in the story is another connection to pop culture. Hacker has made significant contributions to online forum discussions about physics, especially at Among her many posts in these forums are ones that offer real-life impressions of the political and psychological underpinnings of academic physics. At the writers’ forum, Hacker has posted a piece wherein she identifies with the character, Kimmy, in the TV series, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:

“Like Kimmy, . . . I know what it feels like when something snaps inside of you and nothing will ever be the same. After I had spent 20 years studying physics, I stepped out of a metaphorical bunker. . . All I knew was that I needed to fully disengage from the machine I had been a part of.”

Hacker’s novel-writing experience is her admittedly cathartic response, to tell the story of her entrapment and ultimate escape.

For obvious reasons, the publication info page of the book contains the disclaimer: “Any similarity to people alive or dead is purely coincidental.” One cannot help wonder, however, which of the novel’s characters—and to what extent—actually do parallel Hacker’s real-life experience.

The importance of the novel’s message is bolstered by Hacker’s undeniable prowess as a physicist. She is pictured accepting a prestigious award (Faraday Cup) at this link:…

and her published work can be found by Googling.

Possibly, the paucity of reviews of her fine novel (published about 6 months ago) is due in part to the extended passages that dwell on famous, though abstract theories and the remaining puzzles that surround and permeate them, in humanity’s efforts to understand the physical world. This is some (overly?) heady stuff to many readers, no doubt.

This reviewer happens to be himself deeply interested in these matters, so I have found Hacker’s perspective—even as presented in a novel— to be most relevant. The relevance stems from what Hacker clearly appreciates as the tentativeness or even flimsiness of theories or experimental claims that are widely regarded as being firmly established. Hacker is a real scientist: highly skeptical and insistent on testing theories with empirical evidence. That part of her, I suspect, will never snap.

I hadn’t heard of Kimmy Schmidt before seeing Hacker’s piece wherein she makes the connection. I’ve since viewed several episodes. The theme song that opens the show seems to capture not only the spirit of Kimmy, but also of Hacker: “Unbreakable, [she’s] alive, damnit!” And like Kimmy, Hacker is really funny, too! “No one could not agree.” “

This is from someone who bought a very early, much shorter version of the story on Amazon:

“What a fabulous book this is. I enjoyed it from start to finish!
It’s a great idea – what society might look like in the future, the integration of technology into biological systems. The Echo, how it could exist, why it does exist, how it was created, the science of the multiverse and parallel versions of reality. The impact of the Echo on individuals and society in general.

Allusions to Lewis Carol and Alice (Alix) in Wonderland: – Obviously the similarities are intentionally blatant but that’s the point. In a universe containing infinite parallel versions of reality, we are transported to one in which these characters are embedded within Lewis Caroll’s narrative. Great!

The characters have depth and substance, have an independent existence and aren’t just shells to wrap a story around (within the limits available for a novel of this scale)

Alix is a great character easy to empathize with and to support.”

I think my books can bring people joy by broadening their sense of themselves and of their world. They are not just entertainment, they are mind expanding. They helped me grow and I think they can help others grow. That is what good books do!

Categories Esoterica, Literature, Marketing, Musings

41 thoughts on “Reviews

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