The Quantum Garden by Derek Künsken
Solaris Books, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by John C Adams
This is Book Two of the Quantum Evolution, and I haven’t actually read the first in the series so I was interested to see whether it would be comprehensible enough for a newcomer to follow. Capitaine Arsenault and Majeur Demer (political officer) are both onboard Congregate warship Les Rapides de Lachines, but the story opens in the viewpoint of the Scarecrow, who is a part of the intelligence team. Information and ensuring obedience to the official political creed of the Congregate are therefore at a premium, and the former can always be obtained via interrogation if it isn’t yielded voluntarily.
Meanwhile, Belisarius and Cassie are roughing it aboard the Calculated Risk, working on a tight budget and crammed in together in a tiny environment being spoken to by the spirit of St Matthew. Then Cassie’s home The Garret is destroyed by a Congregate nuclear weapon, which she assumes was meant to kill Belisarius. As narrative openers go these were strong and varied, and it was invitingly clear that there was going to be plenty of action to go round in the pages that followed, so I was soon sucked in.
This is a good old-fashioned space drama. Naturally, there’s a complete universe created previously for Book One, brought over for the sequel. It is easily and comfortably shared with the reader as the story unfolds to provide precisely the sort of vivid, detailed world that SF readers demand. I soon felt at home in the fictional worlds and had no trouble following the story despite being new to the franchise.
The story was fairly character-driven, which I liked, but there was a pleasing amount of action, too. The science element was well laid out for the general reader and that worked for me as a casual SF fan. Where it became really quite technical, the physics was carefully explained. Overall, I felt it had been excellently drafted and very carefully structured to appeal to a general readership without sacrificing the science content, which was a welcome feature. The ending was very satisfying, but there was more than a hint of how a third book in the series could begin.
I loved the writing style, which was very polished. Belisarius and Cassie were so well crafted as characters that I soon found myself caring very much about how things worked out for them and admiring just how plucky they were. And Congregate mongrel pilot Stills was on hand to provide a more laddish feel and lighten the mood just when it was needed.
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