Worlds collide when a university professor stumbles across a machine that threatens the fabric of the universe.
Readers with a deep interest in theoretical physics, applied philosophy and alternative histories may dig this imaginative but demanding speculative novel by Scottish writer Crumey (The Secret Knowledge, 2013, etc.), which was published in the U.K. in 2004 and is now available for the first time in the U.S. The central mystery is carried forward by physics professor John Ringer (whose name is just the first instance of Crumey playing with identity), who receives a mysterious text on his “Q-Phone” that simply reads “Call me: H.” He wonders if H. is actually Helen, the former paramour who disappeared after leaving him. Once Crumey has set up Ringer’s visit to a remote town called Craigcarron to give a talk about noncollapsible wave functions, he introduces interstitial chapters from invented novels by author “Heinrich Behring” that concern, among other things, composer Robert Schumann’s confinement in a mental hospital and the intellectual struggles of physicist Erwin Schrödinger, he of the famous cat. Crumey also introduces a "Harry Dick," who is confined to a nearby mental hospital, suffering from a new illness that causes victims to lose the ability to separate fact from fiction. Ringer soon learns that a murky corporation has launched a machine powered by quantum technology that could potentially violate the laws of physics. “We would all be like Schrödinger’s cat: an unresolved mixture of possibilities, in a box from which no power of heaven or earth could ever free us,” he muses. “It might take no more than a poor alignment of those nickel-tantalum mirrors to cause the fatal leak of doubt. Then once it spread, there would be no more truth or falsehood; no fact or fiction.”
An intellectually nimble doomsday scenario that makes all those worries of creating an accidental black hole at the Large Hadron Collider sound benign by comparison.