I'm Sorry, Your Eigenstate Is Showing!
It is difficult to believe this novel is twenty years old on writing this review. What we have here is cutting-edge hard science fiction. We have a story that requires some familiarity with the ideas of quantum physics in order to be fully
It is difficult to believe this novel is twenty years old on writing this review. What we have here is cutting-edge hard science fiction. We have a story that requires some familiarity with the ideas of quantum physics in order to be fully appreciated.
Essentially, what Egan gives us is a puzzle: the entire solar system is cut off from the rest of the universe by powers unknown. The rest of the novel is a tour de force of a hard science unraveling of the mystery.
The scale in this story staggers one. The entire solar system? Cut off? A Bubble of absolute darkness enfolding the entire solar system so that the stars go out? The stage is staggeringly huge, but Egan's concern is personal. Throughout the novel, the ideas unfold at a personal level. The "hero" is presented with a continual barrage of quantum revelations that increasingly threaten to unhinge his very perception of reality.
I loved the fact that Egan managed to craft a mystery exploring the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. That he revels in bringing the reader to the philosophical implications of the collapse of the quantum wave function. That he can can employ eigenstates as a plot device. And that he can do all that without requiring his readership to be post graduate science majors.
You do not have to be a science major to enjoy this book (though it wouldn't hurt) because Egan teaches you what you need to know as the story progresses. This, in essence, is a very high level philosophical adventure in the quantum universe.
Egan's prose is clean and generally non-poetic. This suits the purpose of a hard-science mystery. The ideas of the quantum universe are the real actors on this particular stage, and Egan does an admirable job of allowing them free reign in one's brain.
Yes, this novel is more than a little mind-boggling, but that is what we want from hard science fiction, isn't it? Here, science is king, and Egan skillfully unfolds a very human story in the midst of all this theoretical physics. No mean feat.