Edition 23: Book Review: The Ghost of Matter by Octavia Cade
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
When The Ghost of Matter popped up in my social media feed, shared by New Zealand writer friends as one of the soon to be released Paper Road Press Shortcuts series, both the title and the hauntingly stark cover intrigued me.
Octavia Cade has turned the life and discoveries of Ernest Rutherford into a short work about the insubstantiality of the realm of atoms and the spaces in between that holds our past.
Salt, sea water and a woman in a bright blue dress who appears in the big moments of Ern’s life are the opaque overlay of the unusual on the everyday life of a brilliant and world renowned physicist.
A perfect length for the story Cade is telling, the prose has some poignant moments where the ghosts of Ernest’s brothers appear or in the melancholic descriptions of the Marlborough Sounds and New Zealand. One of the best descriptions was where Rutherford’s intellect was: “a bright, giant glacier of a mind, one that pinned down and ground all boulders before it.” Quotes from Rutherford’s lectures are used well, fitting in well with the chapters’ themes.
Regrets of leaving behind a family shattered by the grief of losing two sons, or how about who his daughter would have been had she been raised with access to his family, and Ernest’s worry that his work could be used for weaponry, brought a humanity to what could have been a dry subject. That we carry our griefs with us, that they haunt us even into our work, all parts of life, was eloquently expressed in the actions and spaces between in the novella.
The timeline of the novella jumped around, sometimes a bit disorienting, and there were a few repetitive moments where Cade returned to significant moments in Ernest Rutherford’s life, but the purpose of revisiting these times in his life in relation to the narrative was clear.
The Ghost of Matter is a great example of combining historical fact and fiction. It will satisfy those readers that want a touch of the strange, the paranormal, in their ordinary. At it’s bite-sized length, it is perfect for a quick read and keeps the reader involved all the way. Check out The Ghost of Matter and the others in the collection for a series of short, different reads.
The Ghost of Matter, by Octavia Cade (#6 in Shortcuts Series)
Fantasy/Ghosts – Novella
Publisher: Paper Road Press, 2015
Sophie is a scientist, aspiring writer, sci-fi and fantasy nerd. She is an editor with IFWG Publishing and has been Editor In Chief of SQ Mag and SQ Magazine, the previous incarnation. She also contributes book and film reviews. She has returned once more to the wilds of suburban Australia.
You can find her in a few different places: @Smoph on Twitter, Sophie Yorkston – writer on Facebook, and at her blogs: Smoph’s Musings and Smoph Writes.