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By David Walton
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
The older and more experienced I get as a professional book reviewer, the more I'm realizing that there are in fact two radically different types of science-fiction novel out there, a genre which I've been faithfully (if not indiscriminately) reading since I was a kid; there are the science-fiction novels that work just as great general novels as well, full of complex characters and a strong style and a plot that is airtight relative to its own internal universe; and there are the science-fiction novels that can only be loved by hardcore fans of science-fiction (say for example the ones who attend a large amount of SF conventions every year, which is why such novels tend to do well at convention-based awards programs like the Hugos), the kind that would otherwise be considered mediocre at best by a fan of general fiction but that fetishistically deliver on the exact kinds of genre details that those genre fans are salivating over. And in fact this is where we get the entire concept of "genre novel" to begin with, I've also come to realize; when someone calls a book one, they're not necessarily implying simply that it's a book written in that genre, but instead that it's an otherwise so-so book that is loved by its fans solely and exclusively for delivering the kinds of easy details that those genre fans are looking for in the first place (whether that's disturbingly intelligent serial killers in crime novels, haughty elves in fantasy novels, half-naked pirates in romance novels, dysfunctional families in hipster-lit novels, etc).
And while I'm a huge fan of SF publisher Pyr for all the legitimately fantastic novels they put out every year, I must also admit that they put out an even bigger number each year of these so-so con favorites, because this is the bread and butter of any genre publisher and, hey, even Pyr's gotta pay for baby's new shoes, right? Take for example the recent one-two series Superposition and Supersymmetry by defense-industry engineer David Walton, whose Goodreads pages to be fair are littered with mostly 4- and 5-star reviews, but that personally made me almost cause permanent damage to my skull from all the eye-rolling I did while making my way through them. Essentially crime novels set among the employees of a fictional atom smashing facility in New Jersey, the premise is that one of these employees has finally caused a successful Quantum Something Or Other (ah, the Quantum Something Or Other -- where would lazy 21st-century science-fiction be without it?), causing a Quantum hole in the universe where Quantum creatures have Quantum gotten in and are Quantum causing a bunch of Quantum damage to our own universe.
Filled with the kinds of half-baked two-dimensional characters you would expect from a mediocre genre novel (wives who exist for no other reason than to show you that the main character is a good husband, the random blue-collar friend who exists for no other reason so that the main character can present a dumbed-down expository explanation of what's going on), and told through courtroom scenes that sound like a sub-par version of a Law & Order episode (which is saying a lot), Walton tries to have it both ways here, with characters that sometimes react to all the magical nonsense without blinking an eye, but then sometimes spend entire chapters saying "What's going on? I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON!!!" when it's convenient for the plot that they do so. A mess of a series that is nonetheless loved by many, these are the kinds of novels that can only be tolerated by the kinds of genre fans who tear through a book like this every single day, and who don't really care whether it's well-done as a piece of literature as long as the word 'quantum' appears a thousand times in 300 pages. It should all be kept in mind before picking up a copy yourself.
Out of 10: 6.9