Review: Quarantine

Quarantine by Greg Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 — Futuristic hard Sci-Fi with a great premise and so-so characters.

Warning: Not treadmill safe. Listening to or reading this book while on a treadmill could lead to injury when the reader gets totally immersed in the ideas presented and stops to ponder them. You have been warned.

After enjoying the Nexus series, a friend thought that I would enjoy Quarantine and other works by Greg Egan. I can’t say that I was disappointed, but I wasn’t as bowled over as I thought that I might be. It was an enjoyable book filled with many thought-provoking ideas and Mr. Egan’s Permutation City and Diaspora are in my queue for 2017.

The novel encompasses three big concepts (the stars suddenly disappearing from view, brain augmentation by nano-technology, and quantum wave function collapse), ANY of which could be expanded into a volume by itself. The author does an admirable job describing the physics that may be in play and one can’t help but to walk away having learned something new. However, the breadth of the novel and the science and mathematics that form its foundation raises two problems for me.

The first problem is that there is so many thought-provoking passages that this is not a book that I can casually read. The science and technology aren’t an obstacle, but it is better suited to slowly reading and digesting. This is where dividing the book into multiple volumes (like Ramez Naam’s Nexus and William Hertling’s Singularity series) would have been advantageous to me.

Which leads me to the second issue, superficial characters. Because there is so much technical matter to cover, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for plot or character development. There certainly is a plot, a good one, and the book get off to a strong start, but begins to lose steam towards the end.

Since there wasn’t time to get invested in the characters to any great degree, this turned out to be, for me, more of a thought experiment rather than a novel. When I tackle the next Egan books, I will do so more deliberately.

I did enjoy how whenever the protagonist activated a new brain mod, he stated, for no apparent reason, the name of the mod as well as the price in dollars. In 2064 Australian dollars, I presume. Nice touch.

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