cover image The Quantum Manual of Style

The Quantum Manual of Style

Brian Mihok. Aqueous (Ingram, dist.), $14 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-0-9883837-5-3

Mihok’s debut draws inspiration from quantum theory to imagine how one might live in an unpredictable or hostile world. The book has two main parts: a manual-style exposition of a “quantum style” of living that embraces uncertainty and change, and a complementary narrative about Tara, a girl growing up in Arizona, whose family is gradually disintegrating. A central tenet of the quantum style is dealing with “singularities,” traumatic events that alter the course of life. Such trauma befalls Tara who wanders through the alt scene in Toronto, then Buffalo, trying to grasp tragedy. The more imaginative sections, meanwhile, offer translations of quantum theory into the banal, often funny, frame of everyday American middle-class life. Talk abounds of bosons, the universe, and other heady theoretical issues, but it’s matched by quirky prose experiments like party dynamics rendered in quasi-computer code, miniature thought experiments about causality, and amusing scientistic commentary on the quantum importance of high school. While the narrative itself is forgettable and the aggressive whimsicality distracting, Mihok’s prose is often witty and intellectually lively, with a charming mixture of high theory and humor that blends notes of Alan Lightman, Charles Yu, and Dada. (Mar.)