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.