cover image Dr. Gravity

Dr. Gravity

Dennis Haseley. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17 (321pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31842-0

Part allegory, part comedy of manners and part tall tale, this engaging novel traces the mission of a clumsy scientist to rid his hometown of an invisible ``threat''--gravity. When the eponymous hero perceives that gravity is weighing down human spirits as well as physical matter, his attempt to combat the force with a secret formula causes his city to rise 4.2 miles above the ground. Townspeople (now more interested in art and philosophy than physical labor) gradually adjust to a ``lighter'' way of life. But inevitably flaws appear in the floating paradise, and soon many find themselves longing for terra firma. Haseley's ( Shadows ; Ghost Catcher ) brilliant skyscape and vibrant characterizations give this book its spark. Readers' hearts will go out to Dr. Gravity, whose noble efforts always seem to backfire; Gabriella, his sweetheart, who is torn between love and homesickness for Earth; and Gabriella's father, the mayor, who pines over his long dead wife. Besides offering the same type of whimsy found in such titles as Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory , this yarn introduces thought-provoking notions about Earthly burdens and soaring imaginations. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)