Superposition (book one) by David Walton (book review).

 ‘Superposition’ by David Walton is the first novel in a science fiction duology from 2015.

Jacob Kelley used to be a top-notch scientist at the New Jersey Super Collider (NJSC) and had given up his job a few years back to get away from its politics. He is now enjoying being a teacher and has let his contacts with his old workplace lapse. Until, one day in early December, when there is snow on the ground, an old friend, Brian Vanderall, wearing flip-flops, track shorts and a t-shirt knocks on the door of the family home, very scared.

Brian then asserts he has been talking to beings that exist in the quantum physics part of our world. They have taught him how to do things that he then demonstrates, like keeping a gyroscope spinning forever and shooting a bullet through Jacob’s wife without killing her. Jacob reacted by punching Brian and forcing him to leave the house.

The demonstrations of the seemingly impossible haunt Jacob. So the following day he goes with his brother-in-law in search of Brian, only to find him shot dead in their old underground lab part-way round the NJSC. But that is not all that they discover. One of the quantum physics beings is also there.

By a series of events, Jacob ends being accused of murdering Brian. Before he is arrested, he actually touches a quantum physics being and ends up having two parallel lives. While one Jacob stands trial, the other desperately tries to uncover the truth behind Brian’s murder. It will take both Jacobs to solve how the quantum physics technology Brian demonstrated works and to solve his murder and they have to do this before they coalesce quantum physics-wise.

This novel is a Science Fiction thriller showing what the quantum physics effects would be like if they existed at our scale of day-to-day living. This novel suffers from having two Science Fiction plot clichés. One is the scientist who makes things happen and the other is the ‘alien’ giving us the new technology.

These are the implausible issues. Otherwise the quantum physics used in the novel seems to be up with the latest, as of 2015, theories. For example, a character states, ‘An electron has no size at all,’ and then goes on to state it has mass and spin.

The motive for the murder is all too human and understandable. It makes the reader want to sympathise with the killer to some extent, but not entirely. This is a sign of a good characterisation in science-led novels.

The novel was written as two interweaving streams. The first stream, entitled Up-Spin, was the events that led up to the murder and investigation by the Jacob still at large. The second, Down-Spin, was trial and aftermath that acted as a commentary on the events. The last couple of chapters where Jacob had coalesced back into one person had no title at all. This worked very well most of the time. The issue is that Up-Spin has its first chapters when Jacob has not split and therefore is not a true parallel story to the Down-Spin, which I found confusing.

Overall, this is an interesting Science Fiction thriller novel, tackling some hard subjects. It succeeds in making us understand some aspects of quantum physics, while giving us an enjoyable read.

Rosie Oliver

September 2020

(pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books, 2015. 300 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $17.00 (US), $18.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-012-2. Ebook: $11.99 (US), ISBN: 978-1-63388-013-9)

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