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Quantum Night by [Sawyer, Robert J.]
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Quantum Night Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 357 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously — a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible — change human nature — before the entire world descends into darkness.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 874 KB
  • Print Length: 357 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: SFWRITER.COM Inc. (1 March 2016)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01C9RBCLC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,423 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just finished this last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. The concept that drives the story is very cheeky and fits perfectly with the evidence any of us can gather from our daily interactions online and in the real world. It's not short on "dad" humour that takes the edge off what could otherwise be quite confronting at times.

In many ways it feels quite similar to Flash Forward, which is high praise as I enjoyed that book just as much as this one, although Quantum Night has big philosophical and psychological aspects that set it apart. The story is intricate enough, with our protagonist's past gradually revealed to us through flashbacks and insights from his treatments, but it never becomes bogged down or confusing.

I find Robert J. Sawyer's style makes for very easy and enjoyable reading so I ate this one up in less than a fortnight. The characters are mostly likeable (most of the time) and the one really bad guy is only briefly involved in the story. That said, all the good guys do questionable things but that is part of what makes it so engaging. If there was one aspect that bugged me a little, it was that the background of general unrest -widespread rioting, etc. - seemed a little forced. But that was a minor gripe that didn't spoil anything.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Suppose that a neuroscientist found a reliable physical method for identifying sociopaths. Suppose that another neuroscientist found a way of measuring the quantum state of an individual’s brain. Suppose that together, they discovered that for every 1 thinking, empathetic individual in the world, there are 2 psychopaths and 4 psychological zombies (people who don’t have inner lives and consciences, but spend their lives following and imitating others, a la “mob mentality”). That’s the premise of this book. It’s an interesting one, and the author has done seemingly strong research into psychology and quantum physics to provide a solid basis for the novel; I'm hardly an expert in either, so I can only say that I found it believable enough to enjoy.

Sawyer’s books tend to range widely in quality from excellent to good to occasionally crap. I’d put this one in the “very good” range. The premise is interesting, and the plot is well done. I was much less enamoured of the unecessary frequent references to pop culture ("Taylor Swift", "Classical Gas"), which will, I suspect, make the book seem very dated 10 years from now. Fans of speculative fiction works about quantum physics will probably enjoy this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars 107 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Night is a Must-Read 6 April 2016
By Bennetheclone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As always, Robert Sawyer delivers.

I made a real point to avoid reviews or anything even remotely about this book before I read it.

It's set in the near future, bouncing back to newly-discovered memories of the main character, Jim Marchuk. The story follows Marchuk as he makes discoveries about both people in general (why are some people psychopaths? Why do others seem to simply follow the crowd?) and about himself specifically. I'm not a good reviewer, so I can only tell you that the book held my interest completely, all the way through, and left me lying awake after finishing it, wondering where I would fit in, in this world of quantum states of consciousness. Am I what I would like to think?

One reviewer noted that politics had intruded into the story, and he found that distasteful, but in this story, politics are virtually required... the world can be greatly impacted by the actions of a very few, and how that could change for the better or worse was an integral part of the story.

My best indicator of whether a book gets five stars is whether I will read it again. This one will be on my required repeat reading list, for various reasons. Plus for the first time, Sawyer added a bibliography. Based on the questions that arise in this book, some of those things will be added to my reading list as well.

Well done, Mr. Sawyer! Well done!
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and very readable, but flawed 28 March 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'll try to make this review useful for potential readers: as a thoughtful old-fashioned hard-ish sci-fi it is very good, moves at a brisk pace, is never boring, and one plot twist genuinely surprised me. Characters are strictly one-dimensional, but that's the point. Which brings us to the major themes: whether one is a psychopath, mindless drone (most of us, apparently) or an enlightened thoughtful being is largely pre-set on a quantum level. Now, what if one could switch these states? En masse? Would it be ethical under this or that series of circumstances? The book essentially develops a thought experiment reaching its logical conclusion.

Why just three stars? Well, the novel is set in (very) near future, and the author immediately gets entangled with current politics. It doesn't even matter if it's left or right, it's just a little too current and does not belong to a sci-fi book. The usual annoying "protagonist divides humankind into deserving few and undeserving many, and promptly puts him/her self in the former camp" trope applies, only this time the protagonist is even more annoying than usual. Regardless of your political leanings, this aspect of the book is cringe-inducing.

Problem number two: the ending hinges on a bunch of truly amazing coincidences (even for a quantum universe), and the big scientific idea / break-through in the end would be obvious to anyone capable of doing 3rd grade math. A little disappointing.

This said, it's a good read, and the mystery plot (which starts the events in the book) is actually very well done. Some psychology anecdotes and thought experiments are interesting and new to a layman (well, at least this layman). And it is indeed thought-provoking. Cautiously recommended.

PS. Protagonist has a somewhat corny sense of humor (appropriate for a character), but the jokes are often unexpected and surprisingly funny. About 1/2 laugh/cringe ratio :-)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 13 July 2016
By Janiece Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read everything Robert J Sawyer has written, and when I learned he had written a new book, I couldn't wait to read it. But I guess even someone as gifted as RJS can't hit it out of the park every time. This book was just not up to his usual standard. Instead of being thought provoking and interesting, it was a polemic on utilitarianism, to the point where I wanted to tell the main character to just shut his pie hole. Additionally, buying into the main premise required me to suspend my disbelief to a level I found difficult.

I'll continue to buy RJS' books, but this one was a disappointment.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't recommend 14 March 2017
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Robert Sawyer is one of the most talented science fiction authors today and I easily group him in with other contemporary greats. I've read and recommended all of his previous books and in general he brings a very thought-provoking yet grounded look into possible near-futures and the intersections of morality, religion, science, and technology.

That said, I can't in good conscience recommend this book, because it is clear that the author hastily re-authored some portions of the book in response to the 2016 US Presidential Election. The vast majority of the novel would have been fine in and of itself as a thought experiment on quantum psychopaths and the widespread effects of such people on society. I'm sure the general allusions to politics in general were written prior to the election and they make sense given the content. And the science behind the ideas of quantum consciousness is theoretically sound and approached in an educated and believable manner.

Where it all goes off the rails is the extremely obvious forced inclusions of anti-Trump rhetoric. Whether it is a spree of illegal immigrant murders in Texas that are constantly referenced in the news or overwrought allusions to racism and the treatment of blacks in America (a black character arriving in Winnipeg literally says "Now I know what it feels like to be white"), Sawyer goes out of his way to make sure the reader is aware that things are very bad since the new US President took over. The narrator's regular internal monologues on Fox News don't help either. These moments have little or no connection to the story and the book would be far better off without them. By the end of the story where there is literally a genocide against hispanics and the US invades Canada over abortion rights the book had already went way off the rails.

Even without the force-feeding of post-election politics haphazardly added to the book, the general plot falls apart quickly halfway through the book once a spree of riots erupt across Canada after the Winnipeg Jets lose to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals (talk about unbelievable futures). Rather than keep the riots to a more believable level, Sawyer's novel jumps the shark and has multiple deranged lunatics chasing down random people to murder them, all loosely tied to the central premise that 30% of the world's population are actually psychopaths largely controlling the behavior of 40% of the world who are mindless zombies (and also happen to be mostly conservatives, I kid you not).

There are some good ideas here that could have made a great book, but the execution is simply flawed and ends up being the worst offering that Sawyer has ever released. And the last-minute inclusion of irrelevant politics doesn't add anything to the story.

Mr. Sawyer may want to tackle the scientific condition of cognitive dissonance in his next novel because he is suffering massively from it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sometimes a good number of them in one book (some of his ... 26 September 2016
By Joe Karpierz - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
QUANTUM NIGHT is Robert J. Sawyer's 23rd science fiction novel. Throughout all those novels and all those years, Sawyer has explored any number of far ranging ideas, sometimes a good number of them in one book (some of his novels have so many different ideas in play it's sometimes tough to keep up with them all, let alone figure out how they all play into the particular story he is telling). One of his favorite topics to explore is the nature of consciousness, and Sawyer returns to that subject in a novel that reminds the reader of some of those earlier idea filled novels. From the idea a person can't be convicted of a crime because that may just be his (or her) nature, to the saying that a person's "lights are on, but no one is home" being a central theme to the book, Sawyer has the reader's head spinning from the opening pages. And it takes the thought that "you can't change human nature" and turns it completely on its ear.

Jim Marchuk has developed a technique for identifying the psychopaths in our midst. There are other techniques, but his appears to not only support the others but is 100% objective and accurate. Marchuk is called to appear as an expert witness in a murder trial; the defense claims that because the accused was "made that way" - that is, a psychopath - he cannot be found guilty of the crime (this is an idea that is not new, and appears here as a result of the mammoth amount of research that Sawyer has done for this novel. His method has determined that the defendant is indeed a psychopath; that is not in question. What started out as a cross-examination of the method turns into a cross-examination of Marchuk, the end result being that he has not only lost 6 months out of his life, but during that 6 months (he finds out later) he has done some pretty gruesome acts.

Not long after his day in court, Marchuk is contacted by an old girlfriend he had during that dark six month interval. Kayla is a quantum physicist. She and a colleague have discovered that the consciousness is quantum in nature, and that there are three states of consciousness: the philosopher's zombie or p-zed (the state where the lights are on and no one is home), the psychopath, and what the novel ends up calling the cwcs (quicks) - conscious with conscience. Each of the three is a actually a quantum state that is an indicator of a quantum entanglement in the brain (it's at this point that I think I'd better stop trying to explain the science here and let you read the novel for yourself, and after you do that take a good hard look at all the non-fiction reading that Sawyer has laid out at the end of the book, and although it might not be a bad idea to explain what a p-zed is, I don't want to take up half the review doing an info dump) and it turns out that an outside force can induce the brain to change quantum
states.

However, there are several questions that are central to the story: why did Marchuk lose those 6 months, why is Kayla's brother in a coma, and why is there an increasing amount of violence occuring all over the world that appears to be somewhat unstoppable? The answers to the first two questions are handled relatively easily and in a straigtforward fashion. The third one is a tad more difficult to come to grips with, and the solution is one that will change the makeup of the entirety of humanity.

QUANTUM NIGHT is certainly a story of ideas, but it is more than that. It's a story of how those ideas influence the people in the story, and how it makes them think of their own as well as all of humanity's morality. These are real people, and although they are facing very earth shattering concepts and ideas that will change the way they think of each other and the rest of the human race, they react in what I feel are very realistic ways to a crisis that threatens to take down a good portion of civilization.

It's probably reasonable to talk about how the science is presented in QUANTUM NIGHT. This is the third book I've read in the last several months which contains a great deal of complex science to make the story work. The first was Kim Stanley Robinson's AURORA, and the second was Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES. The first two novels have long stretches of infodumps - pages upon pages upon pages of infodumps. Robinson goes into gory detail telling the reader exactly why a generational starship will not work. Stephenson loves teaching his readers about orbital mechanics. Sawyer, on the other hand, weaves the science into the story so that while you're vaguely aware that you're getting a lecture in quantum mechanics (for example), it's not boring and tedious. It's part of the natural conversation of the story, and the characters react to it in realistic ways. As much as I love a good infodump, I really got tired of the orbital mechanics in SEVENEVES; my eyes were rolling so much I felt they would spin out of my
head. And while it could be argued that Sawyer treads dangerously close to the "As you know, Bob" method of the infodump, I don't think he ever crosses that line. The conversations between the characters in which the science is explained to the reader is believable and interesting.

Oh, one more thing. If you start walking down the street or sitting in your car at a stop light looking at people and wondering if they're psychopaths, p-zeds, or quicks, Sawyer has done his job. He's making you think about the world around you in different ways. And that's what good science fiction - like QUANTUM NIGHT - does.