The Quantum War (The Quantum Evolution Book 3) by Derek Künsken
Solaris, Paperback, £7.37
Reviewed by Ian Green
The Quantum Evolution series has reached a crescendo with The Quantum War. Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with insight into the quantum realm- utterly different to the base humans who came before. Künsken has built a world in this series full of questions: What is it to be human? What is the nature of faith? Can humanity endure? As humanity has expanded to the stars through a series of stable wormholes left by a mysterious precursor species, they have littered their worlds with the remnants of genetic experiments. The Homo quantus, an attempt to allow us to see further: the Homo eriadnus, mentally human but physically utterly alien, forced to change rapidly to survive a hostile world of ultra-pressure seas, but now suited to piloting starcraft at crushing speeds; the Puppets, a slave race engineered to biologically worship their creators. As a whole, the series has always felt staggeringly full of ideas, and in The Quantum War, the threads of the first two books come together satisfyingly, with a degree of crunch and resolution.
As we pick up into this third book in the series, we are already familiar with these subspecies, as well as the factions of humanity. The first book was a heist with unexpectedly high stakes, and the second book what amounted to a similar concerted strike mission, once again taking us in a similar structure- large problems, and Belisarius and his unique abilities allowing him to carry off rather ingenious solutions. The third book takes this structure and appends it to a much larger conflict- interstellar war is on the cards, the fate of all Homo quantus potentially on the line due to Belisarius’s earlier actions…but the solution is, of course, a heist! All of this is perhaps predictable but carried off with enough elan that it is easy to go along with. Künsken is happily cavalier with the life and limb of all involved, so the stakes always feel real. Throughout, the strength of the book is its rigorous thought about the implication of these different senses and types of being on what it means to be human, but this can lead to occasionally repetitive sections as post-human characters try to describe their sensation- this is often done well, but it is repeated perhaps once or twice too often. When the book’s third act kicks in, a clear love of pace and action emerges, and we are in slightly more familiar action sci-fi territory, with all the fun that entails. The Quantum War is a thoughtful book with deep themes and interesting questions, but it isn’t afraid to blow something up or to have fun, and this balance of hard sci-fi concepts and action set pieces makes for a compelling read. Certainly, if you have read The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden, this is a worthy successor- and a world that seems ripe for further exploration.