Taking on the simultaneous roles of expert scientist, journalist, historian and storyteller of uncommon enchantment, Levin delivers pure signal from cover to cover ... But as redemptive as the story of the countless trials and unlikely triumph may be, what makes the book most rewarding is Levin’s exquisite prose, which bears the mark of a first-rate writer: an acute critical mind haloed with a generosity of spirit.
Ms. Levin is herself a scientist, which explains her access, but more than that she is a writer rather than a scientist who writes. Her book touches only lightly upon the nuts and bolts of the theory and technology, but it contains enough to satisfy the reader’s interest in how such measurements can be made. It is more about the people, personalities and politics involved in getting such an expensive and long-gestating (four decades and counting) project to fruition.
Ms. Levin’s first few chapters start strongly enough. She profiles the physicists who showed, despite widespread skepticism, an early and unwavering belief in gravitational waves, collaborating across institutions and nations to build the equipment that would ultimately prove their existence ... [she] starts to lose her footing the moment she begins telling the story, rather than scribbling character sketches. Her narrative often devolves into an inside-baseball account of a very long, very slow season with a host of very grouchy managers.