Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Review Tuesday moved to Wednesday: Quantum Reaction by Marc Wayne -- #ScienceFiction #Thriller #ReviewTuesday

Quantum Reaction book cover

Quantum Reaction
by Marc Wayne

Self-published, 2023

[Read the blurb and an excerpt from the book here:]

Angela Kapp works as a remote interpreter for blind adults, providing assistance and instructions based on what she sees through their high-tech C4U headsets. The job doesn’t pay particularly well, but it suits her solitary lifestyle. Haunted by traumatic memories, Angela has little desire to interact with other people. She lives in a shabby, isolated cottage in the woods west of Boston, where she struggles against violent flashbacks and her craving for alcohol.

When she witnesses the brutal murder of one of her clients through the C4U goggles, it’s almost enough to tip her back over the edge into her nightmare past and to destroy her hard-won sobriety. Then, only the next day, she recognizes the murderer closing in on another blind client, a brilliant software engineer named JT. Through her quick thinking and JT’s resourcefulness, he loses the would-be attacker in the Boston subway, but now that he’s realizes he’s a target, he doesn’t know whom he can trust. Despite her misanthropic tendencies, Angela finds herself entangled in JT’s complex life.

Everyone, it seems, has a motive for wanting JT dead: fanatical church members who view his company’s teleportation technology as blasphemous; his co-founder Dave, who was married to the first victim Claire, but who has now disappeared; Marla, the high-powered investor who stands to make billions from QuantiPort’s impending IPO; QuantiPort’s ambitious chief of security. JT and his interpreter must work together to determine who is after them – before one of the attacks succeeds.

Quantum Reaction has a science fiction backdrop, but for the most part it is pure thriller. In their efforts to determine the guilty parties, Angela and JT take repeated risks, barely escaping their mysterious pursuers. Most of the book consists of action scenes, creatively orchestrated and meticulously described. It’s exciting, but a bit exhausting.

I really enjoyed the insights the book offers on the experience of being blind, as well as the highly plausible assistive technology JT uses to help him function. In one scene, Angela has managed to free herself after being kidnapped. JT guides her in focusing on the movements she felt and the sounds she heard while she was locked up in back of a truck. Together they use these non-visual cues to work out where she’d been taken.

Both JT and Angela are believable characters with considerable depth. JT’s descriptions of his self-pitying behavior as a blind teen really rang true. Angela’s severe PTSD seems plausible when we finally learn her secrets. There’s also an undercurrent of romance between the two, but the author doesn’t allow this to blossom. I felt ambivalent about this; a happy ending together would have been emotionally satisfying, but given who they were and the circumstances at the end of the book, probably would not be realistic.

I did find the ending of the book something of a let down. I don’t want to offer any spoilers. Let me just say that the identity of the guilty party was a surprise. Unlike some mysteries, when I looked back at the events of the book with new knowledge of the culprit, I did not see all the evidence falling into place. I have a feeling there were some loose ends that did not fit with the final explanation.

Overall, though, I enjoyed Quantum Reaction. It’s original and fast-paced, with characters you can admire. It also provides a convincing depiction of the realities of being blind in the twenty-first century.

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