Quarantine Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jan 1995
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Greg Egan, an Australian, is a master of intellectual dazzle who can still amaze hard-SF readers who know all the tricks and demand to be shown a new one. Quarantine (1992) was his first novel, though his short stories in Britain's SF magazine Interzone had already caused a stir. The quarantine of the title is a gigantic space-time bubble placed around Earth's orbit by unknown hands in 2034, making the stars and outer planets invisible and unreachable. Why? Investigating a pointless kidnapping, a resourceful cyber sleuth with a head full of computer add-ons stumbles on--and is forcibly recruited into--a technological conspiracy whose researches hint at the reason for the Bubble. It's there to protect the universe, or rather an infinite multiplicity of universes, from the destructive effects of human minds. In a ferociously intellectual argument Egan tackles the central weirdness of Quantum Mechanics, which is both the most successful and worryingly inexplicable theory of modern physics. Suppose it were possible for a thinking being to be consciously "smeared out" over the countless simultaneous probability states that according to QM are "collapsed" into a single reality when observed or measured? This happens to our hero, and the results are very strange indeed. Dizzying concepts and hardware overshadow the slightly flat characters, but it's a terrifically impressive book. - -David Langford --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
'One of the genre's great ideas men' Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
An exploration of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and what it means for the self if we can modify the functioning of our own brains.
And I got it, in 'Quarantine'. But that wasn't the point. The first quarter of so of the book is very cyber: neural modifications, private police, dodgy corporations all over the shop, and just when you think it's become boring, that Gibson did it first and better, Egan throws one of the best spins I've seen in recent science fiction and you find out what the raison d'etre of the book really is.
Whether or not you like cyberpunk as a genre has nothing to do with whether ot not you'll like Quarantine, although if you're already into it you'll get through the opening chapters better. It's really good old-fashioned speculative sci-fi, the sort that used to be set on alien worlds surrounded by spaceships, but which Egan has now set on a mid-21st century Earth - a brilliant fusion.
The basics of the story work for me. In the future, you can download your brain to live online, and that's a big business. The story revolves around a private investigator who has to figure out the disappearance of a mentally disabled lady. She has the ability to escape from seemingly secure holding areas, and that means she's found a way to manipulate the concept of parallel universes. This has to do with the ability to collapse universes that have spawned as part of all the billions of possibilities that could happen with every choice that someone makes.
Egan does a good job of playing with the Schroedinger's Cat situation... at what point does your observation become the reality that you see and that actually happened. The only problem I had is that too much of the story ended up devolving into theory related to that angle. For those who want to think deeply about that scenario, this would be a good read. For those who are more interested in the story line, it slowed dramatically at that point, and I could have done with less of that.
Obtained From: Library
The first third of the novel sets up a mystery surrounding a missing person and introduces the main character. It is an extremely well-written segment with that first-person, present tense style adding to the tension. The main character is developed slowly and thoroughly, though ancillary characters are less well described. The near future world of the setting is very imaginatively built; the technology of the time is inventive and believable.
The second two-thirds of the novel is very heavy on the science of quantum theory, with the story line suffering at its expense. I can't say that I always followed every aspect of the physics but the concepts under discussion kept me interested, even if they were overly drawn out. Unfortunately, the story didn't quite come together by the end, with the explanation of the science theory overwhelming the fictional "mystery".
Certainly, I enjoyed reading this book and found Mr Egan's ideas intriguing. Its a pity, though, that the underlying mystery story didn't maintain its prominence to the last page. I'll read the next in the series at some stage.
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Most recent customer reviews
The book starts as a detective story, set on Earth in the nearish future.Read more
(it's not a mystery tour if you know where your heading)
Egan's work is 'Hard' Sci-Fi of the highest order.Read more
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