Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Book Review: Quantum Night

Quantum Night
Robert Sawyer
Science fiction

WARNING: Contrary to my usual policy, this review contains some SPOILERS.

Rob Sawyer is an author whom I've historically liked a great deal. He writes core science fiction: a big what-if is introduced, and then the consequences are worked out. 

In Quantum Night, the big idea centers around human consciousness. What is it? What would happen if you could raise--or lower--a person's level of consciousness, while leaving them fully functional? Sounds like a great classic-SF premise, I'd say. And the book follows through, for the most part. Its flaws are the flaws of the genre: it's talky (though the dialog is believable, rather than pure infodump), and it's more interested in the idea than in the characters (though the characterization is, in fact, better than average).

But then there's the ending.

Somewhere along the line Sawyer seems to have gotten religion. Not the usual Christ-is-come-to-save-us-all flavor, but the geek version. We poor humans, he evidently feels, need salvation from a higher power. And so, thanks to the High Church of the Technopocalypse, POOF! Deus ex machina! A magic technological thingy comes to pass, and lo! everyone and everything is good and happy and light! Praise the Lord 2.0!

What's worse is that I saw the divine intervention coming for most of the book. I claim no special prescience here; if you read the blurb, you'll probably see it as well.

What's even worse is that Sawyer has now used basically the same B.S. cop-out of a flabby non-resolution in three works: Quantum Night, the otherwise very good W.W.W. trilogy, and Triggers. That's why I say he's gotten religion. I cannot otherwise explain how a fine craftsman has repeatedly gone so badly off the rails, and always in the same direction. Seriously: what makes an intelligent and respected author think that a climax consisting of "And then a divine hand reached down and made everything all right!" is a good idea? Can anyone tell me?

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