Review: Quantum Night by Robert J Sawyer

4 of 5 stars
Published March 2016

This book is about human consciousness and conscience, psychopathy and philosophical zombies. The premise is that all human beings are p-zeds (aka followers or “sheep”), psychopaths (no conscience) or those with a conscience. In the year 2020, Jim Marchuk is a psychology professor at the University of Winnipeg. He discovers, while testifying at a trial, that he’s lost 6 months of memories from 19 years ago when he was in university. In the quest to find out what happened, he reconnects with the woman he dated during those six months, a relationship that ended very badly. She’s a scientist as well, dealing with quantum physics and psychology.

During the course of the story, we find out what happened to Jim and he finds out some of the things he did during those lost months. There’s a lot of science and quantum terminology being flung about that frankly, went way over my head but I think I got the gist of it. The author takes the theory to the extreme but it’s an interesting point of view. If you can change someone from one type of person to another, would you? What would happen to them if you did?

Meanwhile, violence and hate crimes are rising. There are riots breaking out all over Canada and as they spread across the world, the unthinkable happens. Jim, Kayla and her coworker may have an unthinkable solution. Should they implement it? Would it even work? It really does come down to “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”.

It’s a bit far fetched in some ways and as I said, the science is a bit difficult to follow sometimes. There was a slow build up, too slow really. It took a really long time for things to get moving and the major turning point didn’t happen until almost 70% into the book with the climax unfolding over the last few chapters. I wish it had moved along a little quicker but I did enjoy the unfolding at the end. The book is riddled with pop culture references to the point of irritation at times, where you wonder how much the author got paid for all that product placement! And yet that ubiquitous Canadian icon, Tim Horton’s, never made an appearance, I don’t think.

This book is going to be debated in this year’s Canada Reads on CBC at the end of March and it will be interesting to hear the debates around some of the moral dilemmas that this book brings up. Overall I enjoyed it.


2 thoughts on “Review: Quantum Night by Robert J Sawyer

  1. shatnerian says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m thinking about picking this one up when it goes in paperback. I really disliked Red Planet Blues but in general, I’ve always liked his work, even if he hits on a lot of the same themes sometimes.


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