Greg Egan’s Quarantine , like all his novels, is absolutely uncompromising in its philosophical outlook. Egan is a hard-core materialist, and will admit to no traces of spirituality or mysticism, which doesn’t just mean that there are no miracles and gods in his books — it means that his characters can’t win by sheer pluck and determination, that chemical compulsions in one’s brain actually alter a character’s motivation and desires, and so forth. This is bracing, in a very anti-Hollywood sense.

As for the plot of Quarantine, it sounds a heck of a lot like Wilson’s Spin — a sphere of unknown origin has gone up around the solar system, shutting out all the stars — but has very little in common. This is a private eye story set against a backdrop of nanotech neural modifications, dealing with a mystery that turns out to be something very different than it initially seemed.

Egan’s later fiction (Teranesia and Diaspora, at least) have been smugly preachy or coldly inhuman; Quarantine is neither of those, and combines excellent world-building with distinctive (albeit distinctively Egan-esue) characterization and interesting SFnal speculation. Highly recommended to people who like a big dose of science in their science fiction.


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