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Quarantine (1992)

by Greg Egan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Subjective Cosmology Cycle (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,2242614,948 (3.84)37
In the late 21st century, bioengineering has meant that people can modify their minds in any way they wish - an era also shaped by information systems so vast that security, in any form, can be easily breached.
  1. 00
    In Search Of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality by John Gribbin (hungeri)
    hungeri: A good scientific book and a sci-fi based on the same subject. The scientific base of the sci-if is strong, but as it is a fiction, you can relax and enjoy it without a worry about "but is it true", "can it be true?". That worry is for books on science.
  2. 11
    Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (asalamon, moietmoi)

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» See also 37 mentions

English (23)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Some of the stuff postulated was mind blowing stuff literally, brain mods. That was my favorite part of the novel, the long technical sections about Eigenstates and quantum entanglement were my least favorite parts. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Quarantine
Series: ----------
Author: Greg Egan
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 224
Words: 80K


Mr Detective-san gets hired to find out why someone kidnapped a woman from an insane asylum. She's practically a vegetable with no rich relatives, so the police have let it slide.

This all takes place X number of years after a barrier went up in space cutting humanity off from ever reaching the stars. No one knows how or why the barrier exists but it is enough that it does.

In the process of finding Vegetable Girl, Detective-san falls in with a bunch of scyenzetists who believe that aliens put up the barrier to keep the Human Gaze from making the universe into one universe instead of a multiverse where anything is possible.

Detective-san has to do something or other, as to the infinite multitude of Detective-san's and he gets it done. Only he's not sure if he got it done or not. But it doesn't matter because if there really are infinite hims, then at least one of them did it and so the Universe is saved the from the evil Human Gaze (no kidding).

My Thoughts:

First off, despite my snarky “Synopis”, this was not badly written or even thought out. The problem I had with it was just how juvenile it was. By that I mean this is the kind of story that I and my friends would have batted around as teenagers. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that I'm not a teenager now and Egan wasn't a teenager when he wrote this.

The story ends up ultimately being pointless and whole basic premise rests on there being no God. The whole IDEA that humanity locks reality into one path as they view it but that other beings might not view things the same way, at its core denies that there is a God who views everything and that reality springs from God Himself.

The other issue was how “serious” Egan treats the idea of the multi-verse. I think the multi-verse is a great idea and should be played around with. What I don't think is that it should be given serious consideration.

Overall, I just didn't want to like this book and Egan didn't do one thing to change my mind about it. This is the first Egan book I've read and it will definitely be the last. If you've read him before and like him, have at him. If you're into trying out some older but not classic SF, this might fit the bill. Written in the 90's, it would fit right in with such tv shows as the X-Files and Sliders. At least I enjoyed those.

I chose this cover from Librarything because all of the other ones were piss-poor pathetic stinkos. Even free Gutenberg books have better covers than most of the ones I saw in English.

★★☆☆☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Jun 21, 2021 |
I've read 6 Egan books so far, including this one in addition to a short story collection, and each time I come to appreciate his recurrent use of lone wolf, nearly autistic lead characters a little bit more. I grew up reading every Asimov novel I could get my hands on, and to this day I consider the original Foundation trilogy to be nearly perfect science fiction: expansive, imaginative, thoughtful, and most of all, deeply concerned with human problems. But where Asimov's heroes were hard-boiled 50s men translated to a far future of robots and starships, Egan has a different attitude towards his protagonists that reflects his different attitude towards the themes of his books. He doesn't ground his writing in Asimov's cheerful faith in rationalism as the savior of humanity even as his heroes are some of the most coldly rational you'll find, he's much more content to just set up a mind-twisting mathematical dreamworld and let them stumble around from one revelation to the next, enjoying the various scenarios for their own sake rather than as parables of the Enlightenment. Maybe these different attitudes to science are partly a generational thing - even though Asimov was as big a fan of hard science as anyone, many modern authors seem to have lost the belief that science in itself can lead to better worlds. The cigar-chomping traders and politicians in Foundation might be completely out of place in a galactic civilization, or even a transhuman world a few decades from now. Or maybe Egan is just more of a nerd, more comfortable with characters who can prune away feelings they don't like and can choose to accept the messiness of the world on their own terms.

Quarantine starts off with a nod to the sudden astronomical catastrophe in Asimov's classic Nightfall: a mysterious force has enclosed the solar system with a spherical event horizon that blocks all contact with the universe beyond, spawning new apocalyptic, millennarian cults. This event was less devastating than the one in the Asimov book, though, and life has moved on. Protagonist Nick Stavrianos is a computationally-augmented private eye hired to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a mentally disabled woman from the institute she was residing in, which could be the work of one of those cults. Nick manages to track her down, discovers she has the ability to somehow make locks and barriers irrelevant, and is immediately pressed into the service of a corporation doing research into quantum consciousness. Roger Penrose once wrote a book called The Emperor's New Mind that tried to argue that AI was impossible because consciousness isn't something merely algorithmic, it depends on quantum effects inherent in the unique physical structure of the brain. I thought the book was flat wrong, but Egan introduces a similar idea here in reverse, that the macroscopic quantum stability/waveform collapse we see everyday is due to the unique observer properties of conscious minds and can be explored with the help of mental software. Egan ties this idea back into the solar Bubble in an interesting way, but unfortunately the climax of the novel, and in addition many of the points about religion and quantum physics, struck me as very similar to their counterparts in Distress - this quantum Messiah idea is the first time I've seen Egan repeat himself so blatantly. Since Distress was written after Quarantine that shouldn't reflect poorly on this book, and to be fair the books aren't necessarily as similar as all that, but I just wasn't expecting such a close recapitulation of themes.

The parts of the book I thought were strongest was where Nick was wrestling with the effects of being neurally reprogrammed to be completely loyal to the quantum consciousness research project, and his Jesuitical attempts to gradually gain some of his mental independence back; those parts brought to mind many good points about the nature of faith, loyalty, and free will. Nick's use of a piece of mental software to run a simulation of his dead wife is also another trademark Egan take on the way we deal with death and loss, which is even more humane in its way somehow than whatever the counterpart would be in an Asimov novel. Maybe the characteristic manipulation of human emotions in Egan's books isn't a sign that he just can't write "normal" people, but an acknowledgment that the limitless possibilities inherent in the idea of increased control of our minds means that a faithful depiction of this process is inherently alienating to the people who have been left behind. There's an outburst from Nick to this effect in the book, which is of course conveyed in hyper-articulate info-dumps, and it's surprisingly moving, in the same way that the similar struggles with death of the characters in Diaspora were moving. Has the relentless opening of new technological vistas rendered the neat futures of Asimov obsolete, and does a more accurate depiction of the future involve more of Egan's brooding introversion than Asimov's scientific optimism? I guess there's no real way to say, but I do enjoy the contrast, and Quarantine, while not quite the philosophical masterpiece that is Permutation City, is still a strong novel on its own. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Plus half a star except for the last quarter which just seemed to fade out into repetitions with little of interest. I like a good attempt at hard science and the book is built around the quantum whatsit which is a large part of the plot. None of the characters are very engaging. When reading over reader's reviews I discover there are a couple more books in something of a sequence so I'll be interested to read the next one, Permutation. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
I loved how the ideaspace kept expanding so rapidly. Also, it's pretty amazing that this was written in the 90s. There's loads of anachronisms that somewhat date this novel, but at the same time, its main idea and parts of the world still hold up well. ( )
  102joa82 | Jan 1, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Egan, Gregprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Békési, JózsefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bollinger, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gudynas, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Only the most paranoid clients phone me in my sleep.
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In the late 21st century, bioengineering has meant that people can modify their minds in any way they wish - an era also shaped by information systems so vast that security, in any form, can be easily breached.

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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.
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