The Coincidence Engine Review

The Coincidence Engine
by Sam Leith

I received this book as part of’s First Reads Program.

Summary: A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and, in the back country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean cans and junkyard waste. This piques the interest of the enigmatic Directorate of the Extremely Improbable. Their fascination with this random event sets into motion a madcap caper that will bring together a hilarious cast of characters, including: an eccentric mathematician, last heard of investigating the physics of free will; a lovelorn Cambridge postgraduate who has set off to America with a ring in his pocket and hope in his heart; and a member of the Directorate with no capacity for imagination.  What ensues is a chaotic chase across a fully realized, hyper-real America, haunted by madness, murder, mistaken identity, and conspiracy.  The Coincidence Engine is a lively, boisterous debut that heralds the arrival of a major new talent.

Review: I gave this 3 out of 5 stars.
This book was extremely interesting. It begins with a fully assembled plan created by a hurricane. It then moves onto the investigators looking for what they call a coincidence engine, an engine or machine created that changes probability, rumored to have been created by a mad mathematician, who may or may not have been building a weapon.
A colleague and professor, Hands, is questioned about this mathematician and his plans. Hands then explains probability and the possibility of a machine. I particular enjoyed his interview because he talked about the universe and what probability and chance really is.
There were many characters, all of which intertwined in the plot to find this machine. The investigators follow Alex, who randomly decides to fly into the US, drive across the country, and meet up with his girlfriend in Vegas to propose to her. 
Weird things happen throughout this entire book, coincidences such as an entire highway of cars resembling Alex’s rental, making it difficult for the investigators to continue tracking him.
Parts of this book were a bit complicated, though I enjoyed the questions of what if. Such as Alex’s musing: “You were almost never more than a strange decision or an accident, or a movement of a few feet, from extinction.” Ideas like this have always interested me.
The  reason I only gave this book 3 stars is because it was sort of confusing and all over the place. The plot didn’t come together as I had hoped and sort of just ended without tying together some pieces I felt should have been tied together and expanded upon.
I think this book is worth a second read. Perhaps more of it will make sense to me.
I will be on the lookout for more novels by Leith, as I think he has real talent and I found this plot refreshing and different. Most of the time, you have to read nonfiction to really get into questions about the universe, like probability and outcomes, so it was wonderful to have these ideas presented in fiction.


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