by David Walton
Cover Artist: Media Bakery
Review by Ernest Lilley
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781633880122
Date: 07 April 2015 List Price $17.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
"Tell me, from your experience, have you ever been dead and then walked around the next day?"
David Walton answers the question posed by Firesign Theater back around the time Neal Armstrong was flubbing his first line on the moon in Superpostion, where quantum physics and the court system supercollide over the murder of a physicist who has unlocked the secret to manifesting quantum effects on a macro scale.
Did you just yawn when I said quantum effects? Stop that. It gets better.
In the world you and I observe, things happen predictably. If you know where a thing is and which way it's going, you can be pretty sure where it's going to be in the next second. On the quantum level, which is to say, when dealing with particles that make atoms look like solar systems, there are no such assurances. You know that particle is going to be somewhere, but until you bounce a photon or something off it, you don't know where. In fact, until you observe it, it's everywhere at the same time. And of course, there's that darn cat.
You sort of knew that already, right? But that isn't keeping your head from exploding, just a little, I'll bet.
So you can imagine how well it goes over when not-so-mild mannered physicist, Jacob Kelly explains at his murder trial that not only did he not kill his best friend, but he saw him dead, then alive, then evaporated. And it's not just the late Brian Vanderhall that's beside himself.
Superposition alternates between Jacob's trial and the events leading up to it First Brian shows up ranting about quantum creatures that showed him how to tap into quantum reality. Then he makes the very poor choice of demonstrating his mastery of matter by taking a shot at the wall through Jacob's wife to show how he could make a bullet miss everything in between.
Jacob doesn't know that trick, as Brian discovers when his right cross knocks him to the floor.
Jacob has something of a temper, but his youthful days as a Philly street fighter are long behind him. Unless you threaten his wife. All of which sets you up to believe that he might well have done it, not to mention that the body was found in a locked underground lab that only Jacob and Brian could get into.
If you like courtroom dramas, Singularity plays it straight in a curvy case. If you like you science fiction with a healthy amount of science, it offers that up too. Unfortunately, the science is quantum physics, and it’s not easy to love.
"The truth is, everyone is confused by quantum physics, no matter how much they've studied it. We learn all the technical jargon, and we can do all the math, but nobody really understands it, because it defies all common sense. It gets worse," I said. "Trust me, it gets a lot worse."(2)
So, don't think too hard, unless that's what you came for. I'm of two minds about it. Part of why I read science fiction is because it's a painless way to pick up new scientific concepts. In the case of quantum science, it's mostly painless. On the other hand, I like a good plot too.
Author David Walton's not-too-distant future is pretty interesting, especially to a former Jersey boy like me. Who would have thought of building the world's largest supercollider under the Pine Barrons? I think it's a great idea. Beyond that it's just the little touches like glasses that project onto your retina, wafer thin phones, and other stuff you're sure we'll get to in the not too distant future.
Though there's a bit of violence to spice things up, it's mostly a what-dunnit sort of book. Jacob and his daughter Alex (or one version of them) wind up on the lam and he's forced to seek help from the world he left behind in Philly, while he tries to sort out the living and the dead and what the world is coming too.
Singularity alternates between being cerebral and exciting, and did a nice job of entertaining both of me.
Links / References