Yesterday I finished reading The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas and I started The Goldilocks Enigma (also published as Cosmic Jackpot in the US) by Paul Davies (thanks for your recommendations, readers).
The Goldilocks Enigma is essentially about modern physics. The End of Mr. Y has interesting detours into thought experiments, Victorian freak shows, homeopathy and Derrida.
The End of Mr. Y throws in a casual mention of the anthropic principle, while the protagonist interstitially picks an inner fight with the treatment of women in most religions. The Goldilocks Enigma starts off with a proper discussion of the anthropic principle, as set out in Brandon Carter’s 1960s paper: why do the laws of physics seem to be so finely tuned for the existence of life?
The End of Mr. Y has a character who is a lapsed theologian. The Goldilocks Enigma has a number of scientist characters who in spite of being supposedly atheists or agnostics, still find themselves drawn to the notion of the meaning of purpose of the universe, and ultimately to a concept of God.
The Goldilocks Enigma is vastly more scientifically rigorous than The End of Mr. Y, but contains a lot less trashy sex and no detours into self-destructive addictions.
The Goldilocks Enigma promises to discuss what the universe is made of. The End of Mr. Y sets out multiverses that are made of language. (And Thomas, I believe, has an essential insight here. Look all around you: your house, your street, your city would not exist if we did not have language. Without language, we’d live in caves and occasionally huddle around fires.)
The End of Mr. Y has a very cursory interlude on the Copenhagen interpretation and the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics: this makes me look forward to more of the real thing (to the extent you can do this without the maths, which I expect is not a lot) in The Goldilocks Enigma.
So, you see how it’s impossible for me to be loyal to either fiction or non-fiction.