A Colorado university physicist learns she can warp reality with mind power alone, but when news of her talent leaks, a rash of “quantum crimes” hits Boulder and beyond.
Smith (Kat Cubed, 2016, etc.) announces the creation of a new sci-fi series with this takeoff on the notion that at the minuscule, quantum-physics level, an elementary piece of matter could either be a particle or a wave, open to the influence of an outside observer. What if that either/or quality of reality persisted on the macroscopic scale? In Boulder, Madison Martin, a young, newly arrived university physicist, impulsively avoids becoming roadkill in a car mishap by choosing a quantum outcome in which she wasn’t struck at all. To bystanders, the injured Madison simply blurs away and an untouched one appears among them. Madison never knew she possessed this ability. Lab tests determine it is (somewhat) reproducible and (somewhat) controllable—the somewhats contingent on the heroine’s mood and especially the presence of hunky fellow faculty member Andro Rivas, a distraction from Madison’s failing long-distance relationship with a boyfriend back East. At one point, her quantum concentration (“q-collapse”) creates a large, very symbolic opening in the cinder block wall to Andro’s office, making him a believer. But q-collapse can be wielded by anyone with training and physics moxie; soon Madison’s amoral students, having posted the secret online, are carving holes in bank vaults and otherwise perpetuating “quantum crimes” in Boulder and elsewhere. Incidental dialogue hangs a “quantum cop” tag on Madison (even though it’s her cousin who has the campus security job) as she and Andro fight the callow villains with energy bolts, teleportation, and telekinesis—all godlike stuff deftly explained as extrapolations of the quantum flux, including having boxed condoms materialize for a romantic interlude. Smith is a scientist (and sci-fi editor) and follows up the breezy narrative with a quick quantum mechanics essay. While it may seem stereotypical to spectral-analyze this lively novel as chick lit, there are indeed all the trace elements of the genre, including a college-science environment where nearly everybody is young and hot (just one humorless, gray-haired department chair) and game for making clothes dematerialize. Smith name-checks Arthur C. Clarke, whose Tales from the White Hart collection had similar playful takes on science but starred old, male fuddy-duddies.
A light sci-fi romance, apt reading material for watching the waves (or particles) at the beach.