Quarantine by Greg Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've had Greg Egan on my radar for a long time but aside from a lucky chance encounter with a novella, it still took me almost two decades to finally break down and read him! It wasn't his fault. That lies entirely with me. I'm absolutely ashamed.
Why? Because this hard-SF novelist is unashamedly tackling some of the hardest quantum physics interpretations, (smearing possibilities and collapsing the wave functions of reality) to very, very courageous levels.
The writer runs with a loaded gun with a safety off. It's pretty awesome. The risk he takes from turning a cyberpunk Private Investigator novel into a completely sidelined thought experiment including the mythical Observer and the death of all the wave functions to create a single reality, multiplying it by a few observers, and then eventually to the whole Earth, is not an end ANYONE ought to miss. I cheered. I gasped. I whooped.
Am I explaining this too esoterically? Possibly. Okay, let's back up. The Earth is suddenly quarantined in a quantum bubble to protect the rest of the universe from summarily changing realities willy-nilly because we THINK it into being. It starts out as quantum tunneling on the macro scale, cheating at cards, getting hugely improbable number sequences right, but then we go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole where multiple worlds can be chosen from at will, thousands, hundreds of thousands, and each die as the "best" possible world becomes real. Now let's throw that into the stew and add more people. How about adding everyone to that powerful quantum schedule? What happens when we all get the ability to be gods?
Yeah, Egan attempts just this. :) Brilliant attempt, too!
So why didn't I give it 5 stars? Because great ideas don't always equate great fundamental stories with plot and characters. There's nothing wrong with this one, but most the plot and characters are puppets to the need to make clear what is going on, science-wise. I like good exposition when I need it to follow the intent of the author. In this case, it's absolutely necessary. And delightful. But it necessarily slows down the plot, too. Like, to a crawl.
Fortunately, it was never boring to me. Just uneven. No harm, no foul! And what we have here is a novel of quantum possibilities gone totally nuts. :) I LOVE THIS!
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