The first volume of a near-future, science-fiction thriller duology, from the author of Quintessence (2013, etc.).
Jacob Kelley, a physicist-turned–Main Line academic with a violent temper, receives an unexpected visit from an old colleague, physicist and womanizer Brian Vanderhall. Vanderhall works at the New Jersey Super-Collider, a state-of-the-art facility now mired in politics and lack of funding. Vanderhall makes some wild claims about the discoveries he’s made—reality can be hacked, and parts of it are conscious—and proceeds to demonstrate perpetual motion to a skeptical Kelley. Vanderhall then—stupidly, since he knows about Kelley’s violent streak—pulls out a gun and, insisting it’s perfectly safe, shoots Kelley’s wife, Elena. Sure enough, Elena’s unharmed, though the bullet apparently passed right through her. Alarmed and furious, Kelley slugs Vanderhall. As Elena calls the cops, Vanderhall flees. In alternate chapters, we meet Kelley again—another version of him; this one’s in a Philadelphia jail, accused of Vanderhall’s murder, and he’s unaware of Kelley No. 1. The latter follows clues left by Vanderhall and enters a secret bunker deep inside the NJSC, where he finds the physicist shot to death amid a lab full of scientific wonders. Then a weird, faceless creature with terrifying powers attacks him. He flees to the surface, jumps into Vanderhall’s car—and Vanderhall, or another one of him who’s very much alive, sits up in the back seat! Things rapidly grow murkier and more complicated. Dazzling puppetry indeed. But the explanation for all this—a conflation of well-known but not necessarily compatible ideas: quantum superposition, the many-worlds theory of branching realities, the Higgs field, which confers mass, and the universe-as-computer—doesn’t add up. The one-dimensional characters don’t help. Neither will armchair lawyers warm to the rather farcical courtroom drama.
A thrill a minute. Just don’t ask questions.