The introductory novel of the trilogy by M.John Harrison weaves the lives of the three protagonists who are separated either temporally or spatially – from the present day to the future, and, from Earth to the edges of the quantum anomaly called Kefahuchi Tract, which is a “singularity without an event horizon, the wrong physics loose in the universe”.
Trying to comprehend the quantum theory concepts that permeate the yarn is not an easy task. Uncertainty and Exclusion Principles, Planck’s constant, Wave-particle duality, Schrodinger’s Cat, Bosons, quarks and spin are just too confounding for a non-physicist. The Kindle version from Amazon.in was helpful in understanding many incomprehensible topics.
The present day protagonist becomes a serial murderer of women like Jack the Ripper. The catalyst is a pan-dimensional malevolent entity leaving a trail of mucus and other such yucky secretions. SF cliches like space rogues peddling “earth-heroin cut with the ribosomes of a tailored marmoset”, man-machine bio-physical interfaces, compulsive onanism, extreme genetic engineering, worm holes and faster than light travel abound the yarn, making it a compulsive read.
The novel begs the question – do people fighting their personal demons or psychiatric illnesses have some sort of quantum instability rather than a neurotransmitter imbalance in their brains?
Continuing with “ten spatial and four temporal dimensions” of the trilogy, the second part differs radically from the first. Compared to the pan-dimensional space and time hopping and the converging of the three protagonists in the first part, the sequential action in the sequel is restricted to one planet or rather to a small neighbourhood on the periphery of an event horizon or worm hole – call it what you want to – the concept takes getting used to. The flavour is darker, surrealistic, and dreamy featuring a cast of dead-beat characters. The setting is more like a staged drama.
No one seems to work, the streets are lined with bars. Bacchanalia and loveless meaningless sexual coupling seem to be the normal daily activities.
The idea of Kefahuchi Tract seems to be similar to Peter Hamilton’s Void – equally vast and mysterious. However, this book is less SF and more a nightmare in the realms of quantum dysfunction. Some bits do get tiresome, especially the obsession with cats – either black or white.
I did not really like the book. All that connects it to the first part is the ominous and omnipresent Kefahuchi Tract and a reprise of the serial murder of women. The earlier characters have all vanished. Let us hope there is a connection between the two books in the concluding part.
After the introductory ‘Light’ and the dull ‘Nova Swing’, I expected the pace to pick up and the final part of the trilogy to result in a thrilling denouement.
Despite the fast pace of events from the present to the future and all other possible spatial and temporal dimensions, the ending was a damp squib.
Saudade: a planet with city on the edge of a black hole, a piece that fell off a black hole, effecting weird quantum physics stuff around this edge, time warps, picking up mental trash from people’s heads etc.
The cat(s) are the quantum-ized clones of the white cat in the first book “Light” which was pixelated and captured by the worlds first quantum computer and projected far into the future.
Cat also reflects Schrödinger’s cat in the Heisenberg Uncertainty thought experiments which is either dead or alive depending upon how you solve the equation.
So what was the Kefahuchi Tract? Can someone elucidate. Besides vomit, mucus, pointless sex, cats and a series of elevated rotating dead bodies not much seemed to happen at the end.
Despite the vast potential when playing around with quantum stuff this was a real let down!
These were my reviews at Amazon.com for the Kindle version of the trilogy.