One way of ascertaining the ability of a writer is how good he is at selling what is essentially bogus science in a manner that makes it sound plausible to the layman. Ted Kosmatka achieves this inside the first 100 pages, which it has to be said, is a good start.
In Eric Argus, a quantum physicist suffering from alcoholism who makes a ground-breaking discovery after being given one last chance in the field, Kosmatka channels Stephen King in the way he depicts a flawed everyman inadvertently stumbling headlong into a situation well beyond his control or comfort zone, at which point the Dan Brown-esque melding of minds approach quickly gives way to a straightforward chase movie.
So sudden is this change in tone, though, that it doesn’t feel in any way contrived. Nowhere are there any underlying hints that something troubling may be afoot; anything unfortunate that happens to Eric is unexpected, and all the more effective for it.
Moreover, the science behind it is never really dumbed down for its audience (although admittedly quantum physics probably isn’t the easiest topic to decode), making it a challenging yet exciting read all the way through from the very beginning, to its conclusion.
However, it is here where things start to falter slightly. Having invested so much time building up the central character and the various threats facing him, the ending disposes of them all too soon, which ultimately feels more like a waste rather than the thrilling climax that was intended. It isn’t often that we bemoan stories not stretching out into two or three parts, but this proves to be that rare instance.
So while the destination turns out to not be as satisfying as it could be, the journey taken by The Flicker Men is a memorable one nonetheless, and worth reading.