by Ethan Chatagnier
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Pub Date 18 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2022
“Achingly beautiful . . . . A book for readers of Sagan, lovers of paradoxes, anyone who has ever looked up. This truly gorgeous novel will live with me for a long time.”—Erika Swyler, author of Light from Other Stars
“Surprising, captivating, surpassingly intelligent.”—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Ghost Variations
“Outstanding.”—Adrienne Celt, author of End of the World House
For fans of Station Eleven and Light from Other Stars, Ethan Chatagnier’s propulsive, genre-bending debut novel asks: what happens when we discover intelligent life just next door? And what does it really mean to know we’re not alone in the universe?
The odds of the planet next door hosting intelligent life are—that’s not luck. That’s a miracle. It means something.
In December 1960, Crystal Singer, her boyfriend Rick, and three other MIT grad students take a cross-country road trip from Boston to Arizona to paint a message in the desert. Mars has been silent for thirty years, since the last time Earth solved one of the mathematical proofs the Martian civilization carved onto its surface. The latest proof, which seems to assert contradictory truths about distance, has resisted human understanding for decades. Crystal thinks she’s solved it, and Rick is intent on putting her answer to the test—if he can keep her from cracking under the pressure on the way. But Crystal’s disappearance after the experiment will set him on a different path than he expected, forever changing the distance between them.
Filled with mystery and wonder, Ethan Chatagnier’s Singer Distance is a novel about ambition, loneliness, exploration, and love—about how far we’re willing to go to communicate with a distant civilization, and the great lengths we’ll travel to connect with each other here on Earth.
About the Author: Ethan Chatagnier is the author of the story collection Warnings from the Future (Acre Books, 2018). His stories have appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Georgia Review, New England Review, and other journals, and have been awarded a Pushcart Prize and listed as notable in the Best American Short Stories.
"Singer Distance is a surprising, captivating, surpassingly intelligent novel, and I mean it as a great compliment when I say that I'm not quite sure where it came from. The narrator who leads us through its pages insists that he is one of the world’s carpenters rather than one of its architects, but the reality that surrounds him is extraordinary, and so too, therefore, is his story. On the macroscale, it’s a story about the interpersonal pathways that connect one planet to another and the interplanetary gaps that separate one heart from another; on the microscale, about what it feels like to occupy a single life, and how difficult it is to tell, when you’re in the middle of it, whether that life is being wasted or fulfilled." - Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Ghost Variations
"Imaginative and brainy, this is a beautifully written book about one of my favorite subjects: extraordinary possibilities." - Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Dreamers
"An achingly beautiful look at living in the shadow of genius, science, math, and loving the difficult to love. Chatagnier looks at the sky and people with equal wonder, and the result is deeply moving. Singer Distance is a book for readers of Sagan, lovers of paradoxes, anyone who has ever looked up. This truly gorgeous novel will live with me for a long time." - Erika Swyler, author of Light from Other Stars
"Ethan Chatagnier’s Singer Distance is one of the rarest and best kinds of novels: a truly thrilling story driven by big ideas and bold writing, whose gripping mysteries only deepen as the plot thickens. You won’t see the stars and the planets above the same way once you’ve experienced this unforgettable book. You won’t look at our Earth the same way either." - Matt Bell, author of Appleseed
"Singer Distance pulled me in from the very first page. I fell in love with the characters—who are full of mettle, vitality, and human chaos—and the audacity of the book's alternate history, wherein contact has been made with a civilization on Mars, but that contact leaves humanity with more questions than answers about the nature of the universe. This book is a love song to our desire for understanding, the scientific drive for progress, and the thread of faith that runs through both. An outstanding debut novel." - Adrienne Celt, author of End of the World House
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 7 members
Wow! With Singer Distance, author Ethan Chatagnier transported me right back to the first time I read Carl Sagan’s Contact as a teenager, hitting me with the one-two punch of immersive science fiction and earthly drama. Just like my teenage days, I also stayed up well into the night to finish this book in one sitting.
This is a mashup of literary fiction and science fiction, equal parts communicating with another species and with our own friends and family. There are jumps in genre, but the balance is just enough that I would urge those who enjoy either genre to give this staggering, heartbreaking worth a chance.
Singer Distance deserves a place on your shelf: it’s got a beautiful cover, it’s a standalone, and it’s something you could reread and lend almost without hesitation (few minor content warnings below). I can’t wait to see what Chatagnier writes next.
My thanks to Ethan Chatagnier, Tin House, and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Content warnings: Mentions of World War II/fleeing Europe, mention of death of parents, one or two sexual scenes with descriptions, mention of psychiatric care and attempted suicide by overdose.
A strange and wonderful speculative fiction story about the world if we had already communicated with Martians.
In 1960, a group of MIT grad students, including Crystal Singer, her boyfriend Rick take a cross country road trip to communicate with Mars. By this time, it's well known that the martians communicate through math formulas, and only reciprocate when a formula is solved. Sometimes it is many years before the math of humans catches up to Mars. In this case, Crystal thinks she has solved the 30 year old unanswered proof and the group is on their way to paint in the desert. When Crystal turns up missing however, Rick finds himself caught in a long journey of love and loneliness.
This is a beautiful and wondrous novel and will captivate anyone looking for a speculative fiction story depicting the connection of love. #SingerDistance #TinHouse #EthanCHatagnier
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