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Month: October 2023

The Final Architecture

The Final Architecture

The Final Architecture (2021) – Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Final Architecture is a trilogy that consists of the books Shards of Earth (2021), Eyes of the Void (2022) and Lords of Uncreation (2023) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. These books were vastly different than the previous books I had read by the same author which was the Children of Time trilogy. I had read that the author had studied zoology which made a lot of sense in the context Children of Time trilogy. I was under the impression that all of his books would feature some kind of deep dive into the psychology, biology and culture of hypothetical forms of sentient life. The Final Architecture has plenty of this as well, but it is much closer to what I would consider a traditional space opera with political factions and space militaries at war. Some of the factions just happen to be aliens with biology not typically associated with intelligent life and with motives that are often incomprehensible.

The book starts off on a run down salvage ship called the Vulture God with a ragtag group of misfits that feels reminiscent of space westerns such as Firefly. Our main protagonist Idris is a seemingly unaging human. During the first war against the architects, which are a moon sized species that have the power to reshape entire planets, Idris underwent a procedure to allow him to become an intermediary. This is a highly experimental procedure with a very low chance of success. The goal being to reshape the persons mind to mimic that of the only human who was born naturally with the ability to perceive unspace and allow them to touch mind to mind with the architects. Merely informing the architects of their presence is often enough to convince them to turn away. Now many decades later at the start of the book Idris is working on the salvage ship in order to escape the atrocities of the past as well to prevent the current colonial human powers called the Liason Board from effectively enslaving him as an unspace pilot. The architects have not been seen in all of time and it is believed by many they are gone for good.

The plot takes off when our secondary protagonist Solace who is a part of a separate faction of all female genetically engineered humans called the Parthenon is sent to investigate one of the only known intermediaries not current under the control of the Liason Board. Solace being an old wartime friend of Idris is allowed to accompany the crew of the Vulture God on a salvage operation while she attempts to convince Idris to assist the Parthenon. During a would be routine salvage operation the crew makes a discovery that has far reaching ramifications.

What I like most about these books is surprisingly also what I dislike the most. The sense of mystery that is set up is both brilliant and debilitating. The frequency at which the main character mentions being incredibly close to figuring out the precise nature of unspace and the architects is so high that at times the book seems to break the fourth wall to poke fun at it. Which brings us to unspace which is both the most fascinating fictional science concept in the book as well as this increasingly vague undefinable concept that seems to only get more confusing as the book progresses. Other species such as the Essiel seem to have no problem understanding the very nature of unspace and the universe, but it would be far too convenient if they simply passed on this knowledge to humanity and other species. They also have a religious like belief that only they should be allowed to have this information. The variety of sentient alien life is extravagant. They don’t go into as much detail of their biology or psychology, but there is a lot about their various cultures. Including the culture of the Parthenon with it being a completely uniform biologically engineered all-female faction.

As a space opera enthusiast I highly enjoyed these books. The mysteries with their abstract nature are consistently interesting to think about. The action all the way from ship to ship battles to hand to hand combat were thrilling. However, no matter how much I enjoyed reading these books I don’t believe any more books set in this universe are necessary. It feels like a complete set where any more or any less would not be as solid of a series.

The Quantum Evolution

The Quantum Evolution

The Quantum Evolution (2018) – Derek Künsken

There are actually 3 main books in this series with a couple spin-offs. The first book in the series is called The Quantum Magician. I read all three of these one after another awhile ago so it would be hard to distinguish exactly how I feel about them individually. There are clear and distinct plots in each book and I do remember where the plot ends and starts again, but my thoughts and opinions are going to be influenced by one another. So instead I am going to write a single post about the series as a whole. I find that in order to fully enjoy this book I had to suspend my disbelief about a number of things. Especially in regards to one of the primary premises this book hinges on. That premise involves the ideas behind quantum wave functions and how it can effectively “collapse” when observed by consciousness. I am not an expert on the matter, but from the many hours of documentaries I have watched and articles I have read I am not convinced that quantum mechanics and conscious observers could work anything like is demonstrated in this book. I believe one of the main points of the famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment was precisely point out the absurdity of applying these quantum mechanics on a macroscopic scale. Regardless, I do not feel like this detracts from my enjoyment of the book. One of my favorite things about science fiction is when it goes off into the deep end in its fictional science. This just happens to stray close to a real scientific phenomenon and extrapolates it into something fictional.

The protagonist Belisarius is a genetically engineered human who is capable of perceiving the quantum world without collapsing its wave functions through observation. This is explained as being possible due to their engineered ability to turn off their sense of self. While in this fugue state of mind they have no understanding of who they are and can’t easily respond to stimuli. These quantum engineered humans are called the homo quantus. Belisarius has left the comfort and safety of his own people to explore what it is he is meant to be doing and partially as an act of self preservation due to the risky nature of the fugue state on the body. Due to his engineered superior intellect he has found a way to live as a con man. Soon after he catches the attention of leaders of an oppressed nation and is contracted to help them bring numerous war ships through one of the most defended wormholes in human civilization.

The universe of The Quantum Evolution series feels incredibly vivid and well imagined. All of the companions that Belisarius recruits for what is basically a heist are unique and lively. There are many other forms of engineered humans that exist for various reasons from the homo pupa who were engineered to serve their masters and the homo eridanus who were engineered merely to survive at the crushing depths of an ocean planet. One of my favorite characters is a homo eridanus that is recruited for the job. He could be described as an incredibly ugly bulbous fish monster of a human. They are under no disillusion of what they are and how they look. One of the ways they cope with this unfortunate fate is their constant expression of nihilism as well as vulgar language. Despite its excessive repetition I found it consistently amusing.

Sometimes people describe a convoluted, but masterful plan as playing a game of 4-D chess. This is usually a wild exaggeration of the complexity of whatever scheme they are trying to pull off. However, in The Quantum Magician I feel that this is the closest thing to what could be described as 4-D chess moves that aren’t deus ex machina tier nonsense that completely changes the rules of the game after the fact. I enjoyed the incredible resolution and climax of each book and really hope there is a fourth book as a sequel to The Quantum War. I get the impression that there is more to tell about The Quantum Evolution universe.