UK author Tom Holt delights U.S. fantasy readers this month with his new release, Doughnut, an unusual story about a physicist who becomes blacklisted after a minor math error causes him to blow up a mountain. Instructed to take a job as a hotel concierge by his dead mentor's will, Theo finds himself living and working in an odd place that, with the assistance of a few random items, allows him to be transported to strange worlds. We asked the author a few questions about his new release, and his answers are most interesting.
Doughnut is a very unusual, humorous fantasy. What type of reader would best enjoy the novel?
I aimed the book at two key demographic groupings; (A) Nobel physics laureates, and (B) everyone else. If you don't fall into one of these categories, tough.
Your protagonist, Theo, is a (mostly) brilliant physicist. Are you any good at math?
A wise man once said that there are three types of people in this world, those who can do math and those who can't. I belong to the latter two categories.
Could moving a decimal point one place in the wrong direction really blow up a mountain?
Of course. Faith, as is well known, moves mountains. Faith is just a shorthand way of describing the things we take on trust. Those of us who aren't mathematically gifted (see above) have to take complex calculations on trust. Nordenfeldt's law of relativistic disposition of displaced energy requires that the force needed to shift a decimal point one place in either direction is 1 (x ~fY) X 42, which is more than enough delta-Vee to pull a mountain up by its roots and hurl it several hundred meters into the air. Everyone knows that.
We know people can be unforgiving, but if one did manage to blow up a mountain, do you think the whole world would actually ostracize them, as they did Theo?
As a conscientious author, I did a fair amount of research on this very point, which involved blowing up a wide range (so to speak) of mountains, in an attempt to gauge people's reactions. I found that demolishing small, basically unattractive mountains in deserts is regarded as little more than a social faux pas, on a level with treading on the hem of the bride's dress as she walks to the altar or putting a mouse in the salad at the buffet at a diplomatic reception. Where large mountains in built-up areas are concerned, though, you can only really expect to get away with it if you happen to be a volcano.
What would you do if, like Theo, you opened a safety deposit box and found a small bottle, a brown manila envelope, a pink powder compact and an apple?
Since everything I write is in fact thinly veiled autobiography, why not pick up a copy of the book and find out?