Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
Douglas Phillips Heightens the Quantum Journey
The race to reach the stars has been preoccupying humanity for as long as it understood the concept of there being a cosmos. Which among us can claim to have never dreamt or imagined about all the unknown laying in the uncharted reaches of space?
In his Quantum Series, Douglas Phillips has merged together the topics of particle physics and space travel, and in the second book, titled Quantum Void, we journey much further than we could have ever anticipated.
After the first book, Quantum Space, humanity made a rather significant discovery: it is possible to compress space in order to traverse nearly-immeasurable distances in the blink of an eye. Needless to say, this changes space travel quite drastically, to the point where a mysterious gatekeeper light-years away sends humanity an invitation to his home planet.
With an unprecedented chance at discovery right at their fingertips, humanity cannot pass up the opportunity, and six envoys are chosen for the mission, named “katanauts”. They stand the chance of touching upon pieces of knowledge which could project humanity’s technology and understanding of the universe forward by thousands of years.
However, not everything seems perfectly stable and predictable, for some experiments at Fermilab are beginning to display worrying instabilities, suggesting humanity’s control of quantum dimensions is very limited and incomplete. On top of this, one of the six katanauts must overcome her debilitating fear and hone an alien gift she can barely even understand.
The universe doesn’t care whether it makes sense to you.― Douglas Phillips, Quantum Void
The road ahead is fraught with peril and elements which seem to defy human understanding at every twist and turn, still bearing many secrets, both beautiful and absolutely terrifying, for the brave explorers embarking on a journey light-years away from home.
Difficult Science Made Easy in Quantum Void
If you’re here looking at this second novel, then I’m going to assume you’ve already read the first one, and if not, you should probably get acquainted with it before venturing here. In any case, one of the distinguishing characteristics of Quantum Space was the Phillips‘ ability to explain scientific concepts in terms a layman could understand, and I felt this feat was a notch more impressive here.
He has certainly gotten even better at conveying and breaking down difficult scientific concepts, many of which are still in the theoretical realm as far as the real world is concerned. He managed to illustrate with breathtaking clarity the idea of a fourth dimension and everything relating to it. Us being three-dimensional beings, we might never be able to truly imagine and visualize the fourth dimension, but I’d say this novel has come fairly close to accomplishing this.
At the same time, while complex theories and ideas are distilled into simple words, I never had the impression he was omitting anything, and that he treats the reader with a good amount of respect for their capacity to absorb scientific information. He also does precise in the afterword which scientific elements are proven, which are theoretical, and which ones he imagined up himself.
Experimentation provided data, data provided guidance toward reality, and the whole point of science was to expose reality.― Douglas Phillips, Quantum Void
I said it in my review of the previous novel and I’ll say it again for Quantum Void, what Douglas Phillips achieves in terms of making quantum physics accessible is on an equal level with what Andy Weir achieved for engineering when he wrote The Martian.
While I do suspect Phillips loves this aspect of his writing more than anything else, he shows a good understanding of pacing and storytelling by never allowing it to take too much space of the centre stage for too long, ensuring the story moves forward consistently with its characters seldom being idle or useless.
The First Galactic Interchange
Make no mistake, the soul of the novel is based in hard science, but at the same time this is still a novel telling a story, and in my opinion Phillips shows an improved mastery of this aspect in comparison with his previous book.
On top of all the returning characters, we are also introduced to some new ones, and I felt Phillips did a good job at making them all feel unique and recognizable in their own ways, without resorting to showering us with endless facts about their biographies. I can’t say all of them are likeable, but they all do feel like they belong in this world as its natural elements.
As you might have guessed, the principal element of this story is humanity’s first visit to an alien civilization located light-years away from home. The anticipation around the event and the potential ramifications are all explored in very understandable, logical and realistic terms, and it did a fantastic job at pushing me to think beyond the book, about how we would handle it in our world.
The idea of this excursion is never treated lightly for a second, and its importance dominates virtually all the decisions the characters are pushed to make. Additionally, Phillips does posit some rather curious ideas about what alien civilizations might look like and how they could potentially develop, at least based on what little knowledge we have of this universe.
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Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper novel without some conflicts and plot twists, and they actually feel somewhat more impactful and memorable than in the first novel. In other words, I think Phillips is truly honing his talent as storyteller in addition to being a man of science; once again, he has managed to make particle and quantum physics truly exciting.
The Final Verdict
Quantum Void by Douglas Phillips is an excellent second chapter in the Quantum series, raising the stakes and further improving on many of the qualities displayed in the first novel. If you’ve enjoyed Quantum Space and want to dive deeper in the astonishing realm of quantum physics and space travel, then I highly recommend you continue your journey with the second novel.
Douglas Phillips is an American author with two science degrees, as well as experience in designing predictive computer models.
As a writer, he is best-known for writing the Quantum series, a series of hard science-fiction novels revolving around the realm of particle physics, and more recently the standalone novel Phenomena.