Quarantine – Greg Egan (1992)
At the very hard edge of hard SF’s furthest boundary is Greg Egan. One could describe Egan as one who writes fiction for scientists to read. This should not deter anyone else from reading his work though.
The premise here is that (as in Robert Charles Wilson’s ‘Spin’) an impenetrable barrier has been thrown around the Solar System, blotting out the stars.
Nik Stavrianos is an ex-cop private detective in a near future Australia where many residents have been gene-sequenced to produce melanonin and are therefore now black. He left the service when an apocalypse cult (The Children of The Abyss) killed his wife but he keeps her within his consciousness as a virtual recording to occasionally spend time with him.
Nik’s latest case is to find a catatonic woman who somehow escaped three times from a high-security nursing home. The third time, so Nik discovers, she was kidnapped and taken to New Hong Kong. Nik’s investigations lead him further than he would have imagined, into a company where the quantum nature of reality is being discovered and explored.
The lead character’s profession and backstory immediately give the novel a noir feel. It’s a subtle touch.
Undeniably the science seems faultless if at times a little impenetrable, but having said that, fascinating. Heisenberg, Schrodinger’s Cat and the infinite multi-parallel universe come together to connect the woman’s disappearance with the mysterious barrier surrounding the solar system. Amazing brain-workout stuff.