STARRED REVIEW
April 07, 2015

Rediscovering the universe

By Jeffrey Rotter
At first glance, The Only Words That Are Worth Repeating looks like Interstellar meets The Stand. Centuries from now, in a post-scientific society where astronomy “is regarded as a delusional cult scarcely more respectable than Jesus Lovers,” a powerful corporation discovers a perfectly intact Orion spacecraft hidden beneath the ruins of Cape Canaveral, along with detailed instructions from NASA on how to launch a voyage to Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon.
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At first glance, The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering looks like Interstellar meets The Stand. Centuries from now, in a post-scientific society where astronomy “is regarded as a delusional cult scarcely more respectable than Jesus Lovers,” a powerful corporation discovers a perfectly intact Orion spacecraft hidden beneath the ruins of Cape Canaveral, along with detailed instructions from NASA on how to launch a voyage to Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon.

Meanwhile in Miami, Rowan Van Zandt is sentenced to hard labor for stealing a tour bus, until he’s offered a deal by Bosom Industries: pilot the spacecraft with his brother, mother and father, and avoid serving time.

But the story of the Van Zandt family isn’t a quixotic space mission. In a frame narrative set 10 years after the discovery, Rowan records his coming-of-age story from the Paranal Observatory in Chile, home of the world’s only remaining telescope. So it’s clear from Chapter 1 that Rowan, at least, never leaves Earth, making comparisons to Interstellar misleading at best. Instead of a high-stakes adventure through the solar system, Rowan’s journey across the dystopic remnants of America is a dark comedy, a clever, funny satire on the way reality is distorted by time and willful ignorance.

Rotter’s second novel is just as funny as his first (The Unknown Knowns), and—in our own age of populist challenges to science—just as topical. “It is a comfort,” Rowan posits eerily, “to know how swiftly and thoroughly a civilization can crumble when nobody wants it anymore.”

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The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering

The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering

By Jeffrey Rotter
Metropolitan
ISBN 9781627791526

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