Miller’s imag­i­na­tion soars with ‘Philoso­pher’s Flight’

Boston Herald - - THE EDGE - By KIM CUR­TIS

Rarely does a novel be­gin with rol­lick­ing fierce­ness that grabs read­ers from its open­ing lines and doesn’t loosen its grip or lessen its hold all the way through.

“The Philoso­pher’s Flight” is the de­but novel from Tom Miller, an emer­gency room doc­tor from Madi­son, Wis., and he’s wo­ven a fan­ci­ful tale set against the his­toric back­drop of post-WWI Amer­ica.

In the book’s pro­logue, nar­ra­tor Robert Weekes in­tro­duces em­pir­i­cal phi­los­o­phy or sig­ilry — the move­ment of en­ergy to pro­duce a phys­i­cal af­fect.

Prac­ti­tion­ers draw sig­ils or glyphs on var­i­ous sur­faces to choose the re­sult­ing ac­tion.

The science/art came into wide­spread use in the 1750s and, by the novel’s open­ing in 1917, it’s used for ev­ery­thing from hov­er­ing and fly­ing hun­dreds of miles to prevent­ing preg­nancy, heal­ing in­juries and, even, to mur­der.

Not sur­pris­ingly, philoso­phers have be­come much sought after in wartime. They’re even cred­ited with end­ing the Civil War.

Women ex­cel at the prac­tice, so naysay­ers dis­miss it as witch­craft and an or­ga­nized move­ment seeks to de­stroy it and send women back into the home rather than watch them rise through the mil­i­tary and aca­demic ranks.

Male sig­ilrists are rare, but that doesn’t dash Weekes’ hopes of join­ing the same elite corps that his mother once led. When he re­ceives a prodi­gious schol­ar­ship to Rad­cliffe Col­lege, then pri­mar­ily for women, Weekes leaves his ru­ral Mon­tana town and heads to Bos­ton, where his for­mal stud­ies be­gin as well as his eye-open­ing in­tro­duc­tion to the larger world and its pol­i­tics and so­cial norms.

Miller’s writ­ing is in­tox­i­cat­ing and one doesn’t need to be a fan­tasy or sci-fi fan to adore this book. One only hopes Miller can man­age to take a break from doc­tor­ing to write an­other book and an­other and an­other.

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