The Anomaly–book review

The Anomaly, by Hervé Le Tellier

Such a brilliant premise. An Air France flight from Paris to New York hits unexpected and severe turbulence on a routine flight, dramatically bumps through towering cumulonimbus, and lands with shaken passengers, but nothing seemingly untoward. This is in March. In June, the plane lands again. The same plane. Exactly. Flight 006, with Captain Markle at the controls and the passengers: writer Victor Miesel, French hitman Blake, a gay Nigerian singer called Slimboy, emotionally complex Lucie and others. All duplicates. WTF? asks the control tower.

Not in so many words, of course. There are protocols for every flying ‘incident’ imaginable from terrorist attacks to lunatics, zombies, captain’s death. These protocols have been scripted by a young probability mathematician called Adrian, and anything literally unthinkable goes into Protocol 42. Under Protocol 42 Adrian lists, firstly, to call him on his secret phone. He enlists the help of his girlfriend, a topology nerd (and topology is another maths thing and the fact that you’ve never heard of it won’t diminish your enjoyment of the book) and hundreds of other brainiacs, but he has no idea how to proceed other than have National Defense staff ask questions of the duplicated passengers: Do you hear constant, pleasant, melodic sounds? Do you have headaches, migraines? Do you feel itching or burning on your face? Which one passenger points out is a nerd joke straight out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

But there it is. A plane has appeared out of the clouds to land twice. What does it mean?

We meet the passengers of the March plane first. They land and get on with their lives. The hitman hits, the writer writes and publishes an extremely fast novel which is catapulted to cult fame and then he commits suicide (all in three months?), the captain is diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer and Lucie leaves her older lover. Then they land again.

I won’t spoil the story, but the questions over what might happen when you meet your duplicate are the core of this dilemma; not just the physics of this and the emotions, but the administrative dilemmas. If there are two of me, which one does my child live with and call mum? Who goes to work, who owns the car and how is the pension split?

Meanwhile the nerds are debating. Are we in multiple universes? A computer simulation? The fanatics appear shouting about god and the devil. The governments of France and USA spend millions trying to negotiate protection and arrangements for 230 duplicated people, though they can’t find the hitman with his multiple personalities, who has already sorted out his duplicate.

Every scenario is different and the meticulous rebuilding begins.

But what if if happens again?

Ah, such a brilliant ending!

Author: Cristina Sanders Blog

Novelist, trail runner, book reviewer and blogger.

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