Allan Avidano on The Other Son
B Y I N D I E R E A D E R
When the empires of reason and faith collide,
the authority of each is called into question.
The Other Son was the winner in the Philosophy category of the 2015 IndieReader Discovery Awards.
What is The Other Son's first line?
“Sean’s finger glistened with blue paint.”
What is the book about? Give us the “pitch”.
“In this compelling debut sci-fi pastiche of existential crises, millennia-old religious prophecies and modern-day fanaticism, the supernatural aspirations of a Muslim scientist collide with the modest, earthly aims of a secular American couple.
When the empires of reason and faith collide, the authority of each is called into question. Sean and Maddy begin to build a life together in New York City, but their endeavor is complicated by Maddy’s choice, prior to meeting Sean, to become pregnant via artificial insemination. Unbeknownst to her, however, the child she carries—Victor, whose destiny the second half of the novel traces—is a beacon of paradigm-shifting research…” Kirkus Reviews
What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?
The book evolved out of my pursuit to understand the persistence of religious faith and fanaticism in a world that is increasingly able to provide answers to the big questions concerning the existence of life and the universe. It is my attempt to explore how the human mind struggles to allay faith and reason in the modern world and the potentially problematic outcomes that can be born of this clash. As a New Yorker, the events of 9/11 figured prominently in inspiring themes and establishing a context for this debate.
What is the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who - real or fictional - would you say the character reminds you of?
The most distinctive thing about the antagonist and main character Dr. Khodadad Jal, I believe, is that anyone who has struggled with holding on to their faith in the face of overwhelming scientific knowledge can sympathize with his plight. He is “evil” but for all the wrong reasons. In many ways, I see him as a modern day Captain Ahab, engaged in a hopeless struggle against a God that our world demands exists, regardless of whether He does or not.
What is the main reason someone should really read this book?
For those individuals of any religious background who have ever questioned why they believe the things they believe, this novel presents many interesting and challenging questions. This is a novel for someone who has not accepted his belief system on blind faith, who has stepped outside of his cultural context and reexamined it logically in order to find his own way, whether back to his belief system, to another, or to somewhere else entirely.