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Superposition by David Walton

Superposition (edition 2015)

by David Walton (Author)

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1176159,756 (3.38)1
Jacob Kelley's family is turned upside down when an old friend turns up, waving a gun and babbling about an alien quantum intelligence. The mystery deepens when the friend is found dead in an underground bunker apparently murdered the night before he appeared at Jacob's house. Jacob is arrested for the murder and put on trial. As the details of the crime slowly come to light, the weave of reality becomes ever more tangled, twisted by a miraculous new technology and a quantum creature unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter. With the help of his daughter, Alessandra, Jacob must find the true murderer before the creature destroys his family and everything he loves."--… (more)
Authors:David Walton (Author)
Info:Pyr (2015), 303 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

Superposition by David Walton

  1. 00
    Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer (gypsysmom)
    gypsysmom: Also involves crossover from one reality to another by way of quantum physics

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The author appears to have been inspired by Schrödinger's thought experiment in which "a hypothetical cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead, a state known as a quantum superposition, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur."(Source: Wikipedia.)

Jacob Kelley, college professor and former physicist, for the New Jersey Super-Collider receives a visit at his home from a former colleague, currently employed by the same super-collider, the arrogant Brian Vanderhall, who claims to have made a significant breakthrough in quantum mechanics. While discussing his research with Jacob and his wife, Brian pulls out a gun and shoots Jacob's wife at point blank, but the bullet passes harmlessly through her. Enraged, Jacob slugs Brian who flees Jacob's home.

The novel's chapters divide into two different scenarios for Jacob, alternating chapters entitled with either "up-spin" or "down-spin." One involved a Jacob who is currently in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Brian while the other one drives to the super-collider only to find a murdered Brian. While the free Jacob is deep within the collider, he is attacked by a faceless, odd amalgramation of a human being who appears to be able to bend space and time. Escaping to the surface, he jumps into a beckoning vehicle only to discover a very much alive Brian. (Are you confused yet?)

As the novel's plot unfolds and the free Jacob tries to prove the jailed Jacob is not guilty of the murder, the reader discovers what created double protagonists and antagonists and the humanoid creature. Although the speculative fiction was an entertaining romp through the subatomic world, it did have me repetitively researching a dummies guide to quantum mechanics. ( )
  John_Warner | Oct 14, 2019 |
2.5 stars, barely, rounded down to two.

The quantum physics part of the story was very interesting, but the characters were very flat to me, very two-dimensional, almost like they were thrown in to show specific characteristics about the main character. For example, the wife and family seemed to be there only the show how good a husband/father he is. The (dumb) buddy is there to show how smart he is.

Aside from the mind-bending theoretical physics, this was all very pedestrian, and very disappointing. ( )
  ssimon2000 | May 7, 2018 |
Told in alternating chapters headed Up-Spin and Down-Spin - until the text’s narration merges in Chapter 40 - Superposition is an exploration of quantum theory and how it might manifest in the macroscopic world if its effects were to apply there. At the same time it is a crime story with a murder at its heart. The victim, Brian Vanderhall, was a physicist who has managed to find a way to interact with creatures from the quantum world, using their knowledge to build a Higgs projector, which can locally alter the Higgs field, thus allowing bullets, for example, to be fired at an object and pass around it, plus various other might-as-well-be-magic occurrences.

The Up-Spin chapters see Jacob Kelley relating the events surrounding the crime and its aftermath, the Down-Spin ones depict Kelley’s trial for the murder. At first the chapters are set at different times but they eventually become contemporaneous. Irruptions from the quantum world have meant that two sets of Kelley - and some other characters - can exist at one time, their probability functions supposedly spread out (superposed) in the manner of sub-atomic particles. Quite how this squares with there only being two - or at most three - versions of each is left unexplained, or, more charitably, a form of artistic licence.

As might be imagined there is a plethora of information dumping and explanation. For this, handy non-Physics-knowledgeable characters provide useful sounding boards. While necessary, these explanations do tend to the obtrusive and there are occasional other narrative infelicities.

The back-cover blurb from William Hertling, “Walton’s captivating writing will draw you in, the murder mystery will keep you reading and you’ll finish with a better understanding of quantum physics,” is wrong on all three counts. Walton’s writing is up to the task but rarely more than workmanlike, the murder mystery is the least of the attractions and the last will only apply if you didn’t know anything about it already. (Arguably even if you do. As Niels Bohr said, anyone who isn’t profoundly shocked by quantum physics hasn’t understood it.) The text also betrays some unreconstructed ideas about both the triggering of female sexual arousal and maternal instinct. The plot depends for its continuation on the lack of collapse of the probability functions of both Kelley and his daughter Alex/Alessandra yet other characters not so necessary to it revert to the one form relatively quickly.

In addition Walton represents the “split” characters as mirror images of each other. Down-Spin Kelley – and one version of daughter Alex - have been active throughout. They will require to have eaten during this time. Like most other biological molecules carbohydrates, fats and proteins are compounds which are chiral (ie exhibit handedness – all in the same sense.) A mirror image body would not be able to metabolise food molecules inverse to it (the only ones available) since its relevant processing enzymes work only with the correct handedness, and hence it would starve. This is not a problem Roger Zelazny avoided in his novel Doorways in the Sand: he addressed it straight on. Walton doesn’t even seem to be aware of it.

Superposition is an entertaining enough tale – the courtroom scenes are well realised, if familiar from countless screen dramas. And it does fulfil the function of the detective novel. If you want a primer on quantum Physics dressed up as crime fiction this is the book for you. ( )
  jackdeighton | Aug 18, 2017 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The older and more experienced I get as a professional book reviewer, the more I'm realizing that there are in fact two radically different types of science-fiction novel out there, a genre which I've been faithfully (if not indiscriminately) reading since I was a kid; there are the science-fiction novels that work just as great general novels as well, full of complex characters and a strong style and a plot that is airtight relative to its own internal universe; and there are the science-fiction novels that can only be loved by hardcore fans of science-fiction (say for example the ones who attend a large amount of SF conventions every year, which is why such novels tend to do well at convention-based awards programs like the Hugos), the kind that would otherwise be considered mediocre at best by a fan of general fiction but that fetishistically deliver on the exact kinds of genre details that those genre fans are salivating over. And in fact this is where we get the entire concept of "genre novel" to begin with, I've also come to realize; when someone calls a book one, they're not necessarily implying simply that it's a book written in that genre, but instead that it's an otherwise so-so book that is loved by its fans solely and exclusively for delivering the kinds of easy details that those genre fans are looking for in the first place (whether that's disturbingly intelligent serial killers in crime novels, haughty elves in fantasy novels, half-naked pirates in romance novels, dysfunctional families in hipster-lit novels, etc).

And while I'm a huge fan of SF publisher Pyr for all the legitimately fantastic novels they put out every year, I must also admit that they put out an even bigger number each year of these so-so con favorites, because this is the bread and butter of any genre publisher and, hey, even Pyr's gotta pay for baby's new shoes, right? Take for example the recent one-two series Superposition and Supersymmetry by defense-industry engineer David Walton, whose Goodreads pages to be fair are littered with mostly 4- and 5-star reviews, but that personally made me almost cause permanent damage to my skull from all the eye-rolling I did while making my way through them. Essentially crime novels set among the employees of a fictional atom smashing facility in New Jersey, the premise is that one of these employees has finally caused a successful Quantum Something Or Other (ah, the Quantum Something Or Other -- where would lazy 21st-century science-fiction be without it?), causing a Quantum hole in the universe where Quantum creatures have Quantum gotten in and are Quantum causing a bunch of Quantum damage to our own universe.

Filled with the kinds of half-baked two-dimensional characters you would expect from a mediocre genre novel (wives who exist for no other reason than to show you that the main character is a good husband, the random blue-collar friend who exists for no other reason so that the main character can present a dumbed-down expository explanation of what's going on), and told through courtroom scenes that sound like a sub-par version of a Law & Order episode (which is saying a lot), Walton tries to have it both ways here, with characters that sometimes react to all the magical nonsense without blinking an eye, but then sometimes spend entire chapters saying "What's going on? I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON!!!" when it's convenient for the plot that they do so. A mess of a series that is nonetheless loved by many, these are the kinds of novels that can only be tolerated by the kinds of genre fans who tear through a book like this every single day, and who don't really care whether it's well-done as a piece of literature as long as the word 'quantum' appears a thousand times in 300 pages. It should all be kept in mind before picking up a copy yourself.

Out of 10: 6.9 ( )
  jasonpettus | Sep 27, 2015 |
The last book I read, Please, Mr. Einstein, was a fictional treatment of physics (among other things). So it was some kind of synchronicity that I picked this book to read next as it is also a fictional treatment of physics. I love when that happens.
The physics in this case involves quantum mechanics which I have a hard time explaining but understand when someone else explains it. So I will leave it to the author to explain the physics involved. He is, after all, an engineer in real life so he does a good job of it. Suffice it to say that, at some point in the future, a scientist, Brian Vanderhall, working at a giant particle accelerator in New Jersey succeeds in creating macro effects with quantum mechanics. In doing so he becomes known to intelligent beings that exist in another universe which coincides with our universe. These beings show him how to do more but then they become angry with Brian. So Brian turns to his old friend, Jacob Kelley, to help him. Then things get tense when Brian shoots Jacob’s wife. He doesn’t kill her; in fact the bullet deflects around her but Jacob throws Brian out and calls the police. The next day Brian is found dead in an underground bunker and all evidence points to Jacob being the killer.
Jacob is charged with Brian’s murder although he was at home asleep at the time the evidence shows Brian was killed. Normally his wife and children would be able to corroborate this but his family has disappeared. Much of the book is about the trial proceedings and these are well done. The defence has an ace up its sleeve that will prove the amazing physics that they are relying on.
Since my two favourite genres are mysteries and science fiction this book scores high with me. There is one detail about the plot that still bothers me. According to the book people can be split in two when they enter certain energy fields but they collapse back into one person when their paths converge. Except one person seems to be able to meet with his other self and both stay intact and I didn’t feel that was adequately explained. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jul 24, 2015 |
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Jacob Kelley's family is turned upside down when an old friend turns up, waving a gun and babbling about an alien quantum intelligence. The mystery deepens when the friend is found dead in an underground bunker - apparently murdered the night he appeared at Jacob's house. Jacob is arrested for the murder and put on trial.
As the details of the crime slowly come to light, the weave of reality becomes ever more tangled, twisted by a miraculous new technology and a quantum creature unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter. With the help of his daughter, Alessandra, Jacob must find the true murderer before the creature destroys his family and everything he loves.
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