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Quantum Night av Robert J Sawyer
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Quantum Night (utgåvan 2017)

av Robert J Sawyer (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
19319104,940 (3.37)14
"With such compelling and provocative novels as Red Planet Blues, FlashForward and The WWW Trilogy, Robert J. Sawyer has proven himself to be "a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation" (New York Times). Now, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing... Experimental psychologist Chris Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Chris is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously--a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts. Chris is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible--change human nature--before the entire world descends into darkness. "--… (mer)
Medlem:Sindi
Titel:Quantum Night
Författare:Robert J Sawyer (Författare)
Info:Penguin Canada (2017), 368 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:sf, Canadian author

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Quantum Night av Robert J. Sawyer

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Well I finished it in a couple days because it was an easy read, like all Sawyer. None of the characters really stood out to me as being interesting or different...they were all kind of bland. I do love reading stuff set in Canada, and though Sawyer really lays his political biases on super-thick, I agree with them so it was all good. I liked the ideas, but this book seemed more like a vehicle for the ideas than an actual narrative. There was a lot of explaining, and some stuff happened, and then it ended, and I wasn't really sure why a lot of it happened. Like, why did Jim have a son with Down's Syndrome? Was it just to prove that he really "walked the walk" when it comes to utilitarianism? He didn't interact with son for the whole book. Also the p-zeds are supposed to be indistinguishable from Q3 people but, aside from a few loved ones, a lot of the people that main characters assumed to be p-zeds acted like sheep. And the moment that Jim started to think that his sister was a p-zed, she was joining in with a violent mob, and Jim was surprised that she would do such a thing...presumably because she's not shown that kind of inclination before, so it seems like she's actually acting different from normal which doesn't make her indistinguishable right? The stuff about psychopathy was interesting but I didn't feel like it really added anything. In the end it did feel like Sawyer was trying to explain the terrible things in the world and for that he needed psychopaths and followers so he wrote a story that could include them both. But again, the ideas were great and I found myself thinking about the nature of consciousness after I put the book down, and it was quite engrossing! ( )
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
Really interesting book. I loved the philosophical discussions in the book, and if the entire book is treated like a thought-experiment, then it's fantastic.

I fear, though, some may miss the point. RJS does a great job of introducing new philosophical dilemmas wrapped in a narrative. This book is no different. Doesn't quite have the character development of a character novel, but achieves its goal of discussing what makes us human. ( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night


Sawyer wrote this novel in an overly political way while through in some smattering of science and pseudo-psychiatric theater to create a simple world where people are one of three categories. Interesting premise, but since people are quite complex you can’t really categorize them that way. That’s one problem with the psychiatric mind is that it is more interested in labeling rather than curing the problems of the mind.

But I digress.

Jim searches for his missing memories and just as in an old pulp fiction novel he finds those six months and is shocked by what he has done.

Solution: Change the course of humanity upward to avoid World War III. Girlfriend only cares about her daughter becoming a philosophical zombie (lots of these terms peppered throughout the book) and so screw humanity, let me save my daughter!

Philosophical conundrums abound in this book. Should we save all of humanity for the sake of one? Or should we sacrifice the one for the common good, even if you become a real jerk in the process?

I’m sure Quantum Physics can be used for better things that screwing with the minds of the 7 billion peoples of Earth.

Sawyer tends to politicize the whole thing – Putin, a US President with expansion ambition annexing Canada, a near start to World War III and three people who use a billion dollar device to change the course of humanity at the cost of a life. Sounds too good to be true.

It is.

Sawyer’s last two novels have not be on par with his earlier novels, and I’m not sure why. WWW Trilogy was cool. Loved Fast Forward and others.

3 stars.


( )
  James_Mourgos | May 19, 2020 |
I am at a loss to explain how this atrocious novel was published, let alone how it found itself on the Canada Reads long list this year.

Before I get into its significant ethical and scientific flaws, I'll take a moment to point out that as a story, it also sucked. The characters were flat and gender stereotyped. The plot was nonsensical. All of the relationships in the book conveniently fit the needs of the plot; the dialogue was 95% info-dump; the main character was, besides an awful person (that below), a total bore. I couldn't put the novel down, not because I was enjoying it, but because I kept waiting for the plot twist that would make this piece of crap into something other than a piece of crap, which, needless to say, never came. I haven't hated a book this much since maybe [b:Tathea|72759|Tathea (Tathea, #1)|Anne Perry|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1309212170s/72759.jpg|1994891], or even [b:Race Against Time|15505|Race Against Time|Piers Anthony|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1388566320s/15505.jpg|891293].

Scientifically, this novel is like someone reading a think piece about a butterfly's wings causing hurricanes on the other side of the world, and writing a novel in which global warming is caused by masses of undiscovered butterflies in the Amazon, which the protagonist vanquishes in order to save us all. You have to be so willfully ignorant to write it that it can't in any way claim to be science fiction.

Fair warning: spoilers galore. Since I can't in good conscience recommend anyone read this, I'd say go ahead and read the spoilers.

Quantum Night is the story of a middle-aged self-righteous bore with an inflexible obsession with utilitarian philosophy as expressed, and only as expressed, by Peter Singer. The hidden results of a freak accident caused by a psychological experiment gone awry twenty years ago reveal to him the shocking truth: 4/7 human beings do not have consciousness, have no feelings, and aren't really people (referred to as p-zeds, for "philosophical zombies"). 2/7 human beings are psychopaths. Only 1/7 humans on this planet have both consciousness and a conscience. It goes without saying that Our Hero is one of these latter.

Further freak accidents--exclusively involving friends, loved ones, and friends and loved ones of friends and loved ones--make it plain that it is possible to switch someone between states from lower to higher using either a good blow to the head or a highly specialized piece of quantum equipment called a "tuning fork." Imagine that. Hundreds of years of psychologists and psychiatrists diligently working to understand psychopathy and how to change it, and all they needed was a 2x4 or a large hadron collider. Who knew? These states loop, so that zombies become psychopaths and psychopaths become empaths and empaths become zombies. Moreover, as our mental states are quantum-ly entangled, you can switch lots of people between states at the same time.

Meanwhile, global violence against minorities of various kinds is spinning out of control, set off by a hockey riot in Winnipeg. Yes indeed. Having newly discovered that it is possible to turn all 4 billion "zombies" into empaths and disable all 1 billion global "psychopaths" by turning them into zombies (i.e. forcing them all to switch up twice) by use of a collider in Saskatoon, and this being the only way Our Hero can think of to stop imminent nuclear war, he bravely charges off to do just that. Does it matter to him that his theoretical construct has not undergone any kind of experimental scrutiny? That all they have is a couple of suggestive anecdotes and a mathematical model? That he is engaging 7.7 billion human beings in a psychological experiment without their consent that could have disastrous consequences for their lives?

Nope. Off he goes. He and he alone, you understand, has a proper ethical understanding of the greatest good for the greatest number as expressed by Peter Singer's utilitarian philosophy, so even if his horrified girlfriend is doing everything she can to stop him because she doesn't want his experiment to turn her beautiful daughter into a psychopath, he must soldier on. After all, this is just irrational maternal feelings. So he successfully switches the states of everyone's consciousness, and nuclear war is avoided. Huzzah! Girlfriend, of course, is now a psychopath and disposes of her daughter with Our Hero, who is now going to be a fantastic father, because who wouldn't want to grow up in a household with a man who knows exactly what to do in every situation based on his detailed understanding of the utilitarian philosophy of Peter Singer? No one, obviously. The End.

You may have thought this was long already, Dear Readers, but I have a lot more to say, so get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and settle in for the long haul as I describe the ethical and scientific flaws, to put it politely, of this horrendous book:

1. The Utilitarian Philosophy of Peter Singer

In the Does This Really Need to be Said category: Oh my god are you fucking kidding me our protagonist the uber-philosopher never questions Peter Singer? Peter Singer is infallibly right about everything, always? Lots of people like Peter Singer, I get it; he's an influential guy; and he's got a ton of critics even within utilitarian philosophy. Surely someone as passionately married to this general philosophy would know something about someone other than Peter Singer and not just be his mindless disciple--besides which, the irony of the book's hero due to his very-conscious-consciousness being unable to question or debate the ethics of ONE utilitarian philosopher!

Hey, here's ONE utilitarian critic of Peter Singer. He makes some good points. And yet Our Hero is a total slave to Singer's every dictate.

Even I, armchair philosopher that I am, can poke holes in the "ethics" displayed by Our Hero's choices. Example: Our Hero begins a long-distance relationship with a woman in Saskatoon. He can't justify the money spent on airfare to see her, as he currently donates $20k/year for starving children in Africa and doesn't want to cut back, so resigns himself to driving there. Oh yeah. OK. Yup in an era of global warming, which Our Hero references regularly throughout the book, driving every weekend from Winnipeg to Saskatoon to have sex with your girlfriend is a morally blameless choice. It has no harm for any human or animal or any living thing. That is 100% consistent with his 'philosophy.'

2. 4/7 human beings are "zombies" and not really people

Ethically: this shouldn't need to be said, but we hardly need another book, whether fiction or not, positing that a majority of the world's population can be safely dehumanized. Putting this in a science fiction book with a bunch of pseudo-scientific gobblydegook pretending to give this abhorrent claim some veneer of scientific plausibility is so unethical it completely, utterly undoes any claim he has to an interest in ethics through his main character. You might think he doesn't really mean it, but I suspect he does. At the end of the book, he lists a bunch of books he claims support the science in the novel. Nowhere in the acknowledgements or in the further-reading section or *anywhere* does Sawyer say, hey, in case you were wondering, I don't think 4/7 people in the world are zombies without thought or real feelings.

Scientifically: There is substantial evidence that this is not the case. It's not like consciousness hasn't been scientifically examined, for god's sake; there are a bunch of theories for what it is and where in the brain it's produced and how it works, but there are NO scientific theories that claim that A MAJORITY OF HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT CONSCIOUS. This is like writing a science fiction novel about gravity not existing 3/7 of the time: if it flatly contradicts science it is fucking not science fiction.

3. 2/7 of human beings are psychopaths and 1/7 people are conscious and have a conscience

Ethically: Sawyer claims here that good people are outnumbered by assholes 2:1. The judgement and arrogance of that claim is breathtaking.

Scientifically: a) If there are twice as many psychopaths as people with conscience, then how can one justify the claim that psychopathy is the disorder and that having a conscience is healthy?

b) It is not true that estimates of the prevalence of psychopathy in the population come solely from prison studies, as he claims. These are studies of the general population and the results indicate that the prevalence is very low, about 1%. One can dispute it but to jump from 1% to 30% is ... bizarre, to put it mildly. How in the world has society cooperatively functioned for millennia if only 1/7 human beings are functionally capable of or interested in cooperations?

4. People "switch" between being zombies, psychopaths and good people whenever they lose consciousness. Umm ... even though 4/7 people don't have consciousness to begin with.

This is so unbelievably stupid it doesn't even merit a takedown.

5. It is ethically in line with Peter Singer's utilitarian philosophy to switch people between mental states en masse without their prior knowledge or consent.

I mean ....

There are a number of classroom scenes in which Our Hero lays out actual and thought experiments on moral philosophy as barely-disguised info dumps in which the reader is encouraged to take particular stances on determining "the greatest good for the greatest number," including the Trolley Problem. Go ahead and click through: I won't make this any longer by describing it.

Beside the substantial ethical problems posited by a situation in which one self-righteous asshole is entitled to make decisions for all of humanity based on a brainstorming session he had with his girlfriend (really), the internal ethics of the novel aren't even consistent. He comes right out and says in a classroom scene that in the Fat Man version of the Trolley Dilemma, people feel morally hesitant to push him on to the tracks for good reason: do I know this will work? What if it doesn't? Am I sure that it wouldn't work if I volunteered to jump in front of the tracks? etc.

OK, so: How the hell does Our Hero know, surely enough to justify this course of action, that what he is doing is going to work? He doesn't. There is no experimental data. Everything that has occured to that point in the novel is a fluke accident. None of it has been investigated or replicated. He is operating on wish fulfillment, guesswork and hubris.

6. His horrified girlfriend is operating only on maternal feelings rather than a solid understanding of Peter Singer's utilitarian ethics, and thus can be safely ignored

Ethically: This is sexist bullshit, pure "women are so emotional and irrational" nonsense. Not a surprise, coming in a novel where we are treated to a typical middle-aged man engaging in a relationship with a super-hot middle-aged mom who shows no physical evidence of childbirth and whose pubic hair grooming habits, for the benefit of whom isn't made clear because she doesn't date prior to Our Hero, is described for the reader for no reason I can fathom.

Scientifically: Every. Single. Time. Society. Intervenes. In Childrearing practics. On the assumption that maternal instincts are flawed and "science knows better." Absolute disaster ensues.

This has been demonstrated so many times for so long that there is no longer any question.

It has been examined and proven scientifically recently so many times that no actual scientist believes differently any longer.

Not all mothers are functional, and that is a problem; but maternal instincts as expressed by functional mothers evolved over a very long time to enhance the survival and fitness of offspring. They can generally be trusted.

Children do not need parents who are paragons of utilitarian philosophy as described by Peter Singer. They need parents who love them and act like it.

Our Hero took that away from his girlfriend's beautiful daughter, but the novel posits that this is ok because the "greater number" received the "greater good" through his heroic actions preventing nuclear war, which surely could not have happened any other way.

7. His description of society is so clueless and tone deaf it deserves its own savaging.

Says Sawyer, racism is only a problem for black people in the US.

And anti-semitism is only a problem for Jewish people in Europe.

And anti-native racism is only a problem for indigenous people in Canada.

Each society has one, and only one, racialized scapegoat out-group, and therefore other minorities are by default treated well there.

In Canada, non-native minorities are treated like white people, per the unnecessary input of the book's single, transitory black character. Yeah. I mean, this is clearly what we've seen with the spotless record of Canadian police departments and their utter lack of brutality towards black Canadians, and the 100% unanimous fully open-hearted embrace of Syrian refugees, and the total absence of any terrorist attacks against Muslims in, say, a mosque in Quebec ....

8. THE ETHICS OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE FUCKING AWFUL

It did deserve the caps-lock treatment, per:

a) Middle-aged mom reuniting with previously-psychopathic boyfriend immediately introduces him to her daughter and has him stay the night. Speaking as a middle-aged single mom .... Hell No.

b) Said boyfriend immediately steps into the father-figure role without any qualms on the part of him, his girlfriend, or girlfriend's mom. Like on the first date. Apparently there are no negative impacts to be considered to the young girl if the relationship does not continue.

c) The entire cast is so psychotically secretive about everything it is ridiculous. The professors running the decades-ago experiment, in particular, will not alert the authorities or the police no matter how many awful things happen for no apparent reason except that the plot would not otherwise hold up. Someone kills your colleague and gouges out your eyeballs? No biggie. Just hide the body and pretend you were in a car accident. Why would you want this person in jail? Just because he's shown an ability to kill people brutally for no good reason and you have no idea when he's going to switch states and stop--and also, what if you lose your project funding? I just can't.

Keep in mind that these characters are all the 1/7 good guys with a conscience who are apparently capable of independent reasoning and interested in morals, ethics and philosophy. And then look at those actions and wonder where the hell their concern was for the wellbeing of that little girl, or the safety of society, or any good thing for any person other than themselves at all.

~~~~~

This book is like the Da Vince Code set in a psychological research institution, in which all 7.7 billion people engage unwillingly in an experimental treatment that fundamentally changes who they are because one middle-aged asshole thought it was the only way to avoid nuclear war, and it was totally ok anyway because 4/7 people aren't really people.

And then it was published and put on the Canada Reads long list.

WTAF ( )
1 rösta andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
The story is set in the near future and blends ideas from physics with psychology. A college professor comes to realize a study he took part in during his undergraduate days has caused a hole in his memory. As he digs into his past he finds out things about those missing six months and that he was a completely different person than the one he is now. Part of the story focuses on his discovery of his memory hole and how it came to be. And current events in the book bring up painful choices when he finds out he can do the same thing to others.

I read the entire book but I really didn’t care for any of the characters. I kept reading this hoping I would feel a connection and maybe come to like them and care about what was happening in the story but it wasn’t the case. Most of the time I kept reading this thinking the author read about something very interesting to him in science and decided to write an entire novel about it if he has to go over the concepts again and again in the plot. I wanted to like the book but I found myself just left with a feeling of “meh” after reading it and it will take some hard convincing for me to pick up another.

Digital review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley ( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jan 6, 2020 |
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Wikipedia på engelska (1)

"With such compelling and provocative novels as Red Planet Blues, FlashForward and The WWW Trilogy, Robert J. Sawyer has proven himself to be "a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation" (New York Times). Now, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing... Experimental psychologist Chris Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Chris is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously--a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts. Chris is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible--change human nature--before the entire world descends into darkness. "--

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