Book Review: Science with a difference

It’s rare that a book lets you live in the present and future with help from science. Of course, it needs to be more than an article in a science journal. You need love, ambition, change-making decisions, family ties and more to make the hook-worthy.

Writer and data scientist S. B. Divya does that in her Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations. Fourteen short stories mix science with real emotions and struggles.

Published from 2015 to 2019, each story speaks about scientific exploration with human journeys it involves. But it is all about the human ‘progress’ that makes you think about decisions and their impacts. Loss of Signal is a narration of Toby travelling in a shuttle to the moon.

Suffering from a neurosurgical issue leaving his body practically lifeless, he is making history by joining a space programme. His journey affects you.

Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse is about same-sex couples in a dystopian world where strict controls mean illegal abortions performed by them threatens their and their children’s lives. When one partner is killed, the other takes the decision to travel to her parents’ home. You travel with their pain and fright.

One of the sweetest stories is The Boy Who Made Flowers in which Charlie Kim, as part of an early state manifestation, displays the talent of sprouting flowers according to the emotions.

Kim’s talent attracts unusual attention and also the interest of the girl he has a crush on. The story has a remarkable line of how Kim finds love while controlling his manifestations and bullying.

In Microbiota and the Masses: A Love Story, Bangalore-based microbiologist Moena Sivaram lives in medical isolation after a tragedy. Meeting Rahul makes her want to live life but it comes at a cost.

You feel for her. You might want to check Dusty Old Things; an interesting tale of scientist Anita’s present meets her future. The changes in her married and professional life lets you rethink about how decision making processes can be life-changing.

The other stories include An Unexpected Boon, Nava, Binaries, The Egg, Ships in the Night, Gaps of Joy, and a Knot of Love, Strange Attractors, Soft We Wake and Runtime.

Most are human stories with scientific dimension. You feel their lives and struggles. Yet at times, you might struggle with certain vagueness in some stories.

Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations would be a good option for an atypical read. The writer’s scientific background and passion for writing is evident in the engaging narration. It’s a pick, indeed.