I think – in all my vast understanding of the world – that one of the things that really sets Greg Egan apart is his willingness to drive real physics to its ruthless end.
This is not to say anything against his plots or his characters. On the contrary, I think Egan does utterly absorbing plots and some remarkable characters. But so do other SF writers. There are few others, though, who combine this with a determination to take real-world physics and drive them a long, long way.
Quarantine is a case in point. Take the idea that quantum mechanics suggests, that of collapsing probabilities as a wave function and the role of the observer in doing so. (Dear scientists, if I have just or am about to claim the equivalent of the Dark Ages being a real thing, please let me know and forgive me at the same time.) This leads to the many-worlds theory, whereby every action spawns alternate worlds where that action was done differently.
Now extrapolate to its ruthless conclusion.
Now add a detective thriller plot.
Now add a world in which there are no stars – they went out some decades ago.
Add the ability to mod your brain (turn off boredom, modulate emotions, change memories and attachments).
Add a world where Arnhem Land has become an autonomous nation and offered part of its land to become New Hong Kong.
… and you begin to get an idea of what Quarantine is like. Seriously, just a few of those things could make for a great novel. But they’re all there. Some are just part of the world-building, some are fundamental to the plot, all work cohesively together to produce a book that I read in a day (it’s only 250 pages, ok? And there are no formulae in this one, unlike the Orthogonal books).
I am never bored by Greg Egan, I am never impatient with Greg Egan, I am consistently surprised by Greg Egan. This is another good one.
You can get Quarantine from Fishpond.
I have just read a short of his in Jonathan’s latest collection. I may have to pick up this as well.
It’s an easy read, and engrossing. Definitely worth it.