Friday, September 28, 2012

Rosy's scrawled book recommendation: Quarantine by Greg Egan

Greg Egan

It causes riots and religions. It has people dancing in the streets and leaping off skyscrapers. And it's all because of the impenetrable gray shield that slid into place around the solar system on the night of November 15, 2034. Some see the bubble as the revenge of an insane God. Some see it as justice. Some even see it as protection. But one thing is for certain -- now there is the universe, and the earth. And never the twain shall meet.
Or so it seems. Until a bio-enhanced PI named Nick Stavrianos takes on a job for an anonymous client: find a girl named Laura who disappeared from a mental institution by the most direct possible method -- walking through the walls.

Harper Voyager


Rosy's scrawlings on Quarantine
I have to say, I was very annoyed when I lost my copy of this book years ago. It drove me bonkers as this book very quickly became one of my favourites, along with Greg Egan's other work Diaspora. Luckily I've since obtained new copies of both books, although not with my favourite covers. The cover I had for Quarantine was this nice purple one but oh well.
Now, on to more important matters than what happened to my copy of this book.
As I've only just bought another copy of this book I'll have to rely on all those good impressions I had way back when. This book was published in 1994, so I was still 14. About 2 years later I read A Brief History Of Time and from there started delving into general knowledge quantum mechanics - I am by no means an expert and wouldn't recognise the maths behind the theory if it were placed in front of me so a working general knowledge is all I'll ever claim here. About another 2 years again and I ran across Quarantine, the first of the Greg Egan books for me to read. The one that prompted me to attempt buying a copy of each of his works on a measly income.
Quarantine is a blast for the mind. I found when reading it that I had to engage in the odd blend of rational and irrational thought far more than when reading most other science-fiction books. The technical knowledge applied to the plot and actions of the characters was far beyond what you'd normally expect, and it was explained in a way that you could imagine the physical results, create the creatures in your mind and bend the space you were guided through with ease. For me, especially at the time, I was deeply impressed with the writing and incredibly envious of Greg Egan for his ability to utilise and express his knowledge of quantum mechanics so well. It made me see just what was needed of an author to write solid science fiction and realise that this might be a little beyond my reach. Science-fiction fantasy blends, however, I might be able to handle now.
While the character of Nick Stavrianos faded somewhat in my mind, he didn't disappear entirely. But it has to be said that the strength of Greg Egan's descriptions of physics, maths, evolution and quantum mechanics in action overpowers by far any single character's importance. Just like when reading Asimov's Foundation series, the presence and impact of the single character weaves in an out of significance when shown against a backdrop that encompasses the universe. And so Nick is important but what's was left in my mind for years on end were the creatures, the reason for the bubble and the way space was described. And I have to say I'm incredibly glad to have read this book and had such things stuck in my head for years.
So that's a review from someone who last reread this book after entering uni and handing it on to a friend to read, which lead to the lost book debacle. I'm well past my uni years now. Some day soon I will have the time to reread Quarantine again and I am looking forward to it. I'll also be rereading Diaspora, which I might well have reviewed except I'm more familiar with quantum mechanics than the mathematical theorems that are behind Diaspora - again though, I delighted in the application and description of such technical knowledge.

I'd recommend this book to: anyone interested in a heavy, intellectual read who also has a good working knowledge of science or mathematics. Many an avid science-fiction reader would love this book.

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