Quarantine by Greg Egan

is near-future hard sf based on quantum mechanics. Unlike some authors I could mention, who use quantum mechanics in the shamefully mystical way that authors in the 30s and 40s used radioactivity, Egan uses it consistently and intelligently to create a story much more mind-boggling than the silly effects some undisciplined imaginations have used it for.

Like some of his short stories, such as "Dust" and "Learning to Be Me," it is partly about the nature of identity and what it means to be human. He manages to do this, in the few of his works I've read so far, more coherently and powerfully than Philip K. Dick was usually able to achieve (in the limited subset of his writings that I've read so far -- enough qualification for you?). It is also about the nature of reality. I might say that Quarantine goes as far beyond Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways" as the latter does beyond Murray Leinster's"Sideways in Time," meaning no disrespect at all to what are two of my favorite stories.

Enough superlatives -- now to scold the publisher (HarperCollins) and warn the reader about the cover. The back cover blurb gives away half of the big mystery that the hero, a private detective, is hired to solve in the first few pages. The inside-front-cover excerpt comes from the last chapter! I haven't seen a cover-blurb spoiler this bad since Del Rey's front cover blurb on The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers.


Greg Egan's home page contains HTML etexts of several of his short stories, including "Singleton" (Interzone, February 2002), which also deals with the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

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