'The Infinite Tides' By Christian Kiefer: The Book We're Talking About

"The Infinite Tides" by Christian Kiefer
Bloomsbury, $26 / $9.99 e-book
Released June 19th

What is it about?
Keith Corcoran is an astronaut and brilliant mathematician who spent time on the International Space Station. While orbiting the earth, he received some terrible news which paralyzed his ability to complete his work. Following his return to earth, he tries to conceive of his new life in an empty suburban house, far away from the beauty of space and the purity of numbers.

Why are we talking about it?
It's a fascinating portrait of a man who is clearly on the autism spectrum, yet isn't a stereotypically dysfunctional savant. Lyrical and intensely believable, the book is more a careful portrait than a plot-driven tale - the most significant events have already occurred when the book begins - yet it is never less than thought-provoking and honest. The opening chapters are heartbreaking. It also contains some beautiful descriptions of space exploration and, yes, mathematics.

Who wrote it?
Christian Kiefer teaches at the American River College in Sacramento. He's a published poet and musician.

Who will read it?
People seeking a new voice in contemplative fiction, and who enjoy lyrical explorations of our relationship with outer space; Richard Ford fans; readers who enjoy artful meanders about suburbia more than intricate plots.

What do the reviewers say?
Publishers Weekly: "Though occasionally rambling, this is an astute, impressive, and ambitious debut."

Entertainment Weekly: "Well-studied, aching, but occasionally meandering."

Show off to your friends
Currently, 517 people have been into space (defined as 100 km above the earth). Of those, only 12 walked on the moon.

Opening line
"The airlock opened."

Typical passage
"He wanted Peter to keep speaking if only because there was a story being told that was not his story and so did not involve the tiny cul-de-sac of his own life. There were other lives and other stories and he had forgotten this simple fact until this moment, in this night. "Must have been incredible," he said and he hoped it would be enough because he did not want to speak; he only wanted to loll his head back on the sofa and drink his beer and feel the after-effects of the painkillers as they mixed with the alcohol and drifted through him as he floated on the surface of Peter's story like a man in a moonlit boat on a flat and silent sea."