The Quantum Connection
by Travis Taylor
Review by Ernest Lilley
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0743498968
Date: 01 April, 2005 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Steve Montana is a new age geek. Which is to say he's an online gamer. For him the technology of interest is games tech, and if he's obsessed, he's self aware enough not to be an addict. Though if he wanted to escape into a world where heroes and villains were easy to identify and where death was a temporary condition it would be understandable. Since his family, and everyone he'd ever known was killed when a "meteor" took out his home town. Funny thing about those big meteor strikes, the way they target towns, cities and military targets. Months later Steve is something of an emotional cripple, deeply depressed, unconnected from the world in general...if it wasn't for his dog, given to him by his parents, who worried that he was alone too much, and his crummy job in a video arcade he'd spend his entire life in "the Realm", the virtual reality successor to the internet.
He might have kept on living in a drug mediated haze of emotional pain and heroic fantasy interspersed by walks with his dog if he hadn't happened to fix an old console game that a customer dropped off. Fixed the broken case, power supply, and various physical defects. Then salvaged the code off its cracked CDs, reverse engineered the game to patch the missing code and generally returned it better than new. The customer turned out to be an officer working on a top secret technology project who could really use a hardware/software genius in the rough, and suddenly Steve's life is transformed from dead ender to top secret insider...almost. With no evidence of his past left intact after the day the meteors fell its hard to get an ultra secret clearance.
So when Steve cracks the secrets locked in an alien piece of computer hardware, without knowing what it is, it becomes really inconvenient for all concerned that his clearance is a bit delayed. He's a good American, so far as he knows, though he'd admit that he's not as emotionally stable as he might like. Which doesn't help much when he's thrown off the project and his work is taken away. His work and the only thing that had been keeping him sane for the last few years.
And just when it looks like things couldn't get any worse, he's abducted by aliens.
If you're rolling your eyes about now and wishing they still wrote them like they used to, you can relax. If ever there was an author who does just that, it's Travis Taylor. And he does it with all the flair and hard science that only a redneck rocket scientist and rock star (well, "star" may be overstating the case) can deliver. And deliver he does. The Quantum Connection is the sequel to Warp Speed, in which we (humans) develop a space warp drive which happens to also be a terrific weapon of mass destruction. If you've read the first book, you'll enjoy where the author picks things up from, but if you didn't, don't worry, you won't be any more confused than Steve, and he eventually figures it all out.
Along the way he picks up some interesting friends, gets into shape, and saves the world, if not the universe. Things do go a bit over the top by the end of the book, but hey, relax...it's only a game, er book?Ok? I'm not going to go into much detail about the rest of the book, but I do want to mention that all our friends from Warp Speed are back, as well as a handful of new folks, including an alien AI and a Russian diplomat's daughter...also abducted by aliens.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Quantum Connection, which bridges the sensibilities of Golden Age SF readers and next generation gamers and game fic readers. I'm curious to see how both those groups feel about it. With any luck it will promote some dialog between them, and possibly even some scouting parties. Pretty clearly we can all look forward to another installment in this rock and roll synthesis of old school SF and new science.