Title: The Quantum Door
Series Title: Quantum World
Author: Jonathan Ballagh
Illustrator: Ben J. Adams
Date Added: February 18, 2016
Date Started: March 3, 2017
Date Finished: March 31, 2017
Reading Duration: 28 days
Genre: Mid-Grade/Young Adult, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian
Shares Paradigms With: Stranger Things, The Matrix
Discover what lies beyond the Quantum Door. The mysterious woods behind Brady and Felix’s house have been deserted for years. But things change when a fence goes up and the brothers notice strange things happening at night. From the moment they dare cross the fence, the brothers enter a world of dark technological secrets that will rock the foundation of everything they know to be true. And once they enter, there’s no turning back. *Some places are better left alone…*
This was a decent mid-grade/YA science fiction novel with excellent pacing, non-stop action, and relatable characters. Often when you have two (especially same gender) sibling characters, their descriptions will start to run together, but this wasn’t the case with Brady and Felix. The older Brady is more cautious and a bit shier, while his younger brother Felix is bolder, almost reckless, and an inventive genius.
The story reminded me of Stranger Things right off the bat with its “mysterious girl in the woods,” and “strange power outages,” but that’s about as deep as it goes with that particular narrative. The Matrix-y parts have to do with the neurogeists (“brain ghosts”), which are terrifying antagonists similar looking to the sentinels that the boys and their new friend Nova have to face beyond the titular door where she comes from. There are more Matrix-like paradigms, but I’d be wading into spoiler territory if I revealed them. There’s also an interesting God motif insofar as all powerful beings choose not to intervene, and humans pay the (potentially deserved) price for our own hubris, but even deities can regret their choices.
The chapter breaks are in binary code (I don’t know if each specific one meant anything), and I was also impressed with some of the layers of meaning in the characters’ names. Nova means “new,” which is appropriate for *spoiler* a human/clone supposedly “created” by AI. *end spoiler* Then later, the boys run into robot/androids (it’s not completely clear what they are) called Artifex, which is taken from the word “artifice,” meaning “clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others.” These AI are desperately trying to mimic their human creators so much so that they carve crude, human faces (or their approximations) and built a fake town named Invidia, but the former is far more uncanny valley than anything else. Invidia is Latin for “envy,” which is perfect for automatons desperate to be like their long gone makers.
Quantum just skates the edge of being annoying with the tidbits of information it gives about the world beyond the door. Since Nova comes from there and Felix and Brady traverse it with her, she has all of the information, which she keeps hidden for reasons that aren’t entirely defined. It’s possible she doesn’t want to draw them into what she considers to be her own problems, but I think the author could’ve made that clearer. It seems like she doesn’t give information just to not give information (aka for the sake of the plot), and a major judgment on Brady’s part could’ve been avoided if she’d only explained why she was performing that particular action in the first place..
Also, apparently the story takes place in the (near) future, which I didn’t know for certain until I read another review. There’s a scene where Brady and Felix go into town with their mother in a self-driving car. Initially, I thought that Felix had something to do with it since he’s shown to have a bunch of high tech gadgets, which I assume he made. Since Brady seemed more clueless about how they worked, my belief was Felix was a child prodigy inventor, which he may very well have been, but knowing the book is a bit futuristic draws that into question.
All in all though The Quantum Door was a fast paced read that never had a dull moment, which isn’t to say the action took over the plot. The author knew how to balance those high tension moments with quiet, bearing finding ones, and there’s one extremely heartbreaking scene near the end of the novel that any one of us could relate to. It also ties Nova and the boys together in a tragic way. If parallel universes exist, which is certainly what the existence of the quantum door suggests, how many other and what kind of others of ourselves might we find?
The novel ends with definite potential for a sequel, which was only avoidable if the door was sealed shut at the end (that would’ve been incredibly boring and cliched). So I’m keeping my eyes open for one if the author decides to go in that direction, which I hope he does.