In my review of David Walton's The Genius Plague, I explained that my copies of his quantum physics murder mysteries Superposition and Supersymmetry had been sitting on my "books to read" pile for a very long time. I'd always known that I'd get to them at some point, but there was always another novel/series that got in the way. But The Genius Plague turned out to be such a good read that I decided it was high time to read Walton's two science fiction technothrillers.

And Superposition was another memorable read, so I had no choice but to read its sequel as soon as I finished it. Unfortunately, Supersymmetry failed to live up to the potential generated by its predecessor. And that's a shame. . .

Here's the blurb:

Ryan Oronzi is a paranoid, neurotic, and brilliant physicist who has developed a quantum military technology that could make soldiers nearly invincible in the field. The technology, however, gives power to the quantum creature known as the varcolac, which slowly begins to manipulate Dr. Oronzi and take over his mind. Oronzi eventually becomes the unwilling pawn of the varcolac in its bid to control the world.

The creature immediately starts attacking those responsible for defeating it fifteen years earlier, including Sandra and Alex Kelley—the two versions of Alessandra Kelley who are still living as separate people. The two young women must fight the varcolac, despite the fact that defeating it may mean resolving once again into a single person.

I've never been a fan of hard science fiction. If the emphasis of a book is on the science and the technology, more often than not the plot gets beyond me and I lose interest. Quantum physics were the backdrop for everything that had to do with Superposition and I was concerned about that. And yet, David Walton did a wonderful job dumbing down the science aspect, so to speak. Not only did the author make the jargon and the concepts understandable, but somehow he managed to make it all quite entertaining. The same cannot be said about Supersymmetry. What worked so well and was fun to read in the first installment was essentially absent in the second volume. Too often, Supersymmetry gets bogged down in scientific elaborations and technical details, and that gets in the way of the storytelling.

The two-timeline narrative structure that merged toward the end helped make Superposition such a terrific read. As a matter of course, this wasn't something that could be duplicated in the sequel. There are a number of storylines, but none recaptured the novelty of Jacob Kelley's trial in the first book. The fast-forward into the future and the impending war with Turkey gave Supersymmetry a decidedly different vibe and it sometimes felt like a Marvel universe kind of tale. Not necessarily my cup of tea, especially given the quality and originality of the first novel.

The characterization is probably the aspect that leaves the most to be desired. Although Jacob Kelley took center stage in both timelines from Superposition, the entire supporting cast was appealing and brought something to the story. The cast of Supersymmetry was definitely subpar compared to the protagonists that made the first installment such a wonderful read. Fifteen years later, both Sandra and Alex Kelley are not as endearing as their younger selves. Ryan Oronzi and Angel Gutierrez, for their part, were a bit bland and not three-dimensional characters. Bringing back Jean Massey, especially the way it was done, felt like clumsy execution. All in all, I couldn't connect with any of the protagonists.

For all that the entire premise had to do with quantum physics, for Superposition Walton managed to come up with a plot that was as compelling as it was enjoyable. I never would have thought that quantum mechanics could be this much fun. Even better, the pace was crisp and the book was a page-turner. Both timelines offered plenty of captivating moments. Supersymmetry started quite well and the apparent return of the varcolac raised the stakes and promised another interesting plot. Yet for some reason, it felt as though everything went downhill around the midway point and the story took a turn for the worse. And for the absurd, what with the teleportation and the time-travel.

I was so looking forward to this one and I really wanted to like Supersymmetry. But where the first volume was absorbing and engaging, the sequel turned out to be a disappointment.

The final verdict: 7/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

1 commentaires:

Roland said...

I think Neal Stephenson handles these subjects expertly in Anathem. Highly recommended!