cover image Quantum Night

Quantum Night

Robert J. Sawyer. Ace, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-425-25683-1

Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author Sawyer’s latest work is a fast-moving, mind-stretching exploration of the nature of personality and consciousness; it balances esoteric speculation with action and character. James Marchuk, a psychology professor at the University of Manitoba, is dismayed to realize that he’s missing half a year of memories from his college days. It turns out that he was the subject of an experiment that converted him from a passive nebbish to an active psychopath, until he eventually was shifted into a higher state of mind and acquired a conscience. Through painful discovery of his own vicious past, he confirms that conscience-driven humans are a minority, menaced by a large number of psychopaths who control zombie-like mobs. Now, looking at escalating military tension among Canada, the U.S., and Russia, Marchuk fears that psychopathic world leaders may be about to destroy humanity. Sawyer (Red Planet Blues) is very good at grounding the technical speculation in personal conflict, as Marchuk’s utilitarian principles struggle with his emotional impulses and the political/media references keep the story uncomfortably close to present-day fears. (Mar.)