Quarantine Paperback – 12 Aug 1999
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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
The debut novel of the master of hard SF reissuedSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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 book starts as a detective story, set on Earth in the nearish future. There are no spaceships, Space Marines, interstellar travel, different worlds or alien races (except some of these are hinted at). The Earth and society itself is fairly recognisable, with mention of wars and invasions and terrorism, but no real changes to day to day life. Apart from the neural mods (apps for the mind) which are very very similar to those in Infoquake (David Louis Edelman).
The future-set detective story is OK I guess, but I a not a fan of detective stories. Then in the second half the story shifts to being a hard-SF quantum physics thriller, which required too much brain power and concentration for me to enjoy, and once you take on-board the mind-blowing idea(s) the plot is quite simple and overall I didn't find the second half that interesting or enjoyable.
The writing itself is fine, and I can appreciate the idea of starting as a detective story then leaping to something else, but to me it didn't work. But that may be wholly because I like space opera (Reynolds, Banks, Hamilton) SF rather than gritty less-fantastic SF.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm new to Egan (Aussie, b1961). A promising beginning (1984 updated, this time to 2068) that has seized up bigtime by midpoint. The characters are ciphers. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
The first book of his I have ever read. It sets out at an investigative pace in 2034 that makes the reader start asking questions at the outset about how humans may engage with... Read morePublished on 20 July 2013 by Verdana
Thoroughly enjoyable read. Does help to have some prior knowledge of Quantum Theory. Definitely a book that makes you think, which can only be a good thing.Published on 10 April 2013 by cheryl
A few years back my first Greg Egan discovery was Diaspora which I love and have re-read a number of times. Since his books are hard to find in the U.S. Read morePublished on 19 Nov. 2010 by ChrisF
One of the best sci-fi books I have read in a long time - absolutely brilliant. However if you don't have some prior knowledge of quantum mechanics then you might find it tough... Read morePublished on 20 July 2010 by Hi
On the whole, I think I enjoyed this book - film noir sci-fi, sort-of Sam Spade meets the Neuromancer. Read morePublished on 14 April 2010 by Willy Eckerslike
Firstly; watch out for plot spoiler reviews!!
(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
I like hard science fiction & am not daunted by scientific concepts being essential to the plot but this book just didn't work for me - it's well-written from the point of view of... Read morePublished on 14 Oct. 2009 by Roger Cawkwell