Walker Larson’s ‘Song of Spheres’

In Walker Larson’s novel, the cosmos becomes a battleground as scientists set off to prove that the universe revolves around Earth.
Walker Larson’s ‘Song of Spheres’
What if the Earth is the center of the universe? It's a question at the heart of Walker Larson's novel, "Song of Spheres." (Triff/Shutterstock)
Jeff Minick

Suppose, just suppose, that Copernicus was wrong, that the sun revolves around the Earth rather than vice versa? Suppose, in fact, that evidence existed that Earth is not just the center of the solar system but of the universe itself?

In Walker Larson’s novel “Song of Spheres,” a group of scientists, technicians, and one eccentric billionaire—all members of the Institute for Geocentric Research (I.G.R.)—believe in this theory of geocentricism, but experiments done by researchers in the past have failed to confirm this possibility. The moon, they decide, offers better possibilities for conducting these tests than Earth, and so they launch the Terra Program, a project cloaked in secrecy. Billionaire Anthony Forrest spends a large part of his fortune to build the rocket and the necessary accoutrements; the cool, calculating Richard Osborne serves as Director of Operations for this lunar flight; the aged astronomer Dr. Christopher Whitfield acts the philosophical linchpin of the group. Now, all they need is a pilot.

Enter Will Leonhardt.

The author of "Song of Spheres," Walker Larson. (Courtesy of Walker Larson)
The author of "Song of Spheres," Walker Larson. (Courtesy of Walker Larson)

The Novel in Brief

Will is an ex-Air Force pilot, a veteran of Afghanistan where the harm done by some of his missions has added to the brokenness that already exists inside of him. Will’s a loner with no family, no love life, and few friends. This isolation plus his top-drawer record as a pilot make him the best candidate available to command the I.G.R.’s dangerous lunar flight.

Though no believer in geocentrism, Will accepts this invitation, mostly, it seems, to fill his empty days and life with purpose and challenge. While enduring the demanding months of training on a remote property in South Dakota, home to the rocket, he draws close to Declan McBride, his co-pilot, and plays chess with Whitfield. Most significantly, Will finds his isolation pierced by a beautiful young botanist, Sage Galloway. Like Will, Sage is no believer in geocentricism, but is there to keep an eye on her father, Henry Galloway, another physicist who is a devotee of the program. Eventually, Will’s attraction to Sage turns into affection and then love, unfamiliar emotions that leave him feeling as awkward and confused as a kid on his first date.

As the training and the finishing touches on the rocket proceed according to schedule, Whitfield begins to suspect that a saboteur has slipped into the Terra Program, and he shares his fears with Will. The first concrete evidence of this possibility occurs when Will and Dr. Kent, who will perform the experiment on the moon, nearly drown in a zero-gravity tank. This “accident” leaves Kent unfit to participate in the lunar expedition, and over the objections of his daughter, Henry Galloway takes his place. Meanwhile, old friends Dr. Whitfield and Sage are secretly tracking down former Apollo 17 scientists who may have information showing that the Terra Program’s experiment has already been performed on the moon’s surface.

Their discovery of this truth arrives too late. It’s launch day, and off into the atmosphere sails the lunar-bound craft with Will, McBride, the elder Galloway, and Forrest aboard. After a successful takeoff, and more than a hundred miles above the Earth, the flight turns into a disaster. For the rest of the novel, Will and his friends must fight for their lives while trying to figure out the motives of those who would see them dead.

Behind the Scenes

From Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” and “State of Fear,” writers have often created thrillers that raise both questions and red flags of warning about science and its abuse.

“Song of Spheres” follows this well-traveled path, mixing suspense with astronomy and physics while sounding alarm bells pertinent to our society today. Despite the clandestine cautions taken by those involved in the Terra Program, most readers will likely wonder how Director of Operations Osborne and CEO Forrest are able to keep the project hidden from the federal government. Scores of specialists—mechanics, engineers, computer techs, construction crews, and others—are needed to build not only the enormous spacecraft but also an enormous hangar, a launching pad, and a mission control room crammed full of all sorts of electronic devices. With so many workers involved, and with the possibility of detection by satellite, evasion seems unlikely.

And this proves to be the case.

Without giving away the storyline, let me say that unbeknownst to nearly all of the inner circle of the Terra Program, the federal government is keeping a close eye on their activities, largely out of fear that the program may indeed discover a geocentric universe, a revelation that might shatter the respect of ordinary citizens for science. Here Mr. Larson, a contributor to The Epoch Times, does a fine job of depicting that D.C. bureaucracy with which we have grown so familiar since the turn of the century—a deceptive and sinister machine all too often determined to keep fact and truth locked in a closet. The last decade in particular has revealed the dire outcome of misrepresented data and duplicitous authority, as trust in today’s institutions, ranging from medicine to corporate media to the legal system, is at a low ebb.

Moreover, a cosmology that found Earth to be a linchpin of the universe would surely have a profound effect on religious faith and theology. When Will realizes the intentions of the Terra Program, he asks: “So what are you implying? Are you all creationists? The earth was created and God put it in the center of the universe?” Osborne brushes those questions aside, saying: “What is at hand is that a false paradigm has been forced upon the world for centuries. It is time that it was righted. Let the world decide what to do with the truth.”

Given that the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Tycho Brahe turned the idea of a God-created geocentric Earth on its ear, it seems likely that a revelation as stunning as this one would do the same, but in reverse.

Entertainment and Edification

Fiction allows its readers to travel back in time to the court of Charlemagne, to live among strangers in present-day New Delhi, and to visit Manhattan 500 years in the future, all from the safety and comfort of our living room sofas. It allows us to enter into the minds and hearts of people utterly foreign to our own personalities. It touches on codes of morality through its heroes and villains, its sinners and saints. The novel at its best delivers reality in the unreal.

And it brings us these gifts wrapped in the same package: entertainment.

Mr. Larson’s “Song of Spheres” delivers that entertainment. His main characters are fully developed and at times—I’m thinking here of that wealthy patron, Anthony Forrest—may surprise us, just as our friends and families surprise us at times. The plot clips along at a good pace, and then, like a runner picking up speed in the second half of a race, suddenly dashes toward the finish line.

But there’s an additional benefit for many of us here, and that’s education. “Song of Spheres” sent me online half a dozen times, looking up, for example, the failed 1887 experiment by Albert Michelson and E.M. Morley to demonstrate the rotation of Earth around the sun, which is key to Mr. Larson’s novel. Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity, as we learn from Mr. Larson, was “a direct response to the Michelson-Morley experiment and the scientific upheaval it had caused.” So that idea sent me online as well, where I also discovered that geocentricism versus heliocentrism remains hotly debated even today.

These hunts were not only instructive, they were a blast. I remain largely ignorant of physics—I was aware of my innocence in that department before I began the chase—but even learning the little I did brought pleasure.

So, if you’re looking for a good suspense story with a bit of love and some thought-provoking ideas thrown in for good measure, pick up a copy of “Song of Spheres.”

Walker Larson is a frequent contributor to The Epoch Times. He teaches at a private academy in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and their daughter.

A novel that will make you want to do some research on your own, "A Song of Spheres."
A novel that will make you want to do some research on your own, "A Song of Spheres."
‘Song of Spheres’ By Walker Larson Swallow Hill Press, Nov. 4, 2023 Paperback: 311 pages
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Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.