Verdict: Thick with deep discussions and heady concepts, author Vadim Babenko channels the spirit—and talent—of "hard" science fiction master Stanislaw Lem, making THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE a rare and thought-provoking journey.
Hard science fiction—the kind that extrapolates on real, cutting-edge scientific theories—is difficult to write well. You need to explain a lot complex ideas in layman’s terms, without having your characters sound like exposition-dumping textbooks. Hard science fiction writers have a lot of explaining to do before they can even get to their story; you need to describe how the space-time continuum works before your hero can cross it to rescue the damsel in distress, right? Literary titans like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov built careers on incorporating hard science into fictional tales…sometimes at the expense of character development and plausible story-lines.
THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE by Vadim Babenko is a rare and wondrous find—hard science fiction with believable characters, a gripping story, and mind-boggling ideas. Babenko uses neuroscience as an entry point to larger explorations of pure math, quantum mechanics, and, ultimately, philosophical dives into life after death and the longevity of love. THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE isn’t action-packed—a low-speed escape on an automated garbage truck is easily thwarted—but it is thick with deep discussions and heady concepts.
Our hero, Theo, awakens in a Matrix-like, computer-generated world. He has a roommate, a comely woman named Elsa, and a guide named Nestor, who appears via video chat. The story unfolds as Theo’s memories return. During his “first life,” Theo was a brilliant scientist, who, with the help of a beautiful, exotic muse named Tina, unravels the mathematical mysteries of thought, consciousness, and memory. Theo’s equations prove our memories and experiences exist beyond our physical selves. THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE is where souls go when bodies die.
Russian businessman Ivan Brevich intervenes before Theo can share his scientific breakthrough with the world. Brevich follows a twisted karmic course in search of his own lost muse, an exotic beauty named Nok. Love elevates, but can also lead to pure madness. Destiny and free will collide inside THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE.
While Theo excels at figuring out the workings of the human brain, his knowledge of the human heart is lacking. Theo chases Tina, and Ivan chases Nok…but who chases poor Elsa? Elsa deserves more than what Theo offers. Hopefully her next roommate is a better companion.
There is a mythic quality to THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE, with Theo transcending death and limbo. Love and hate fuel his rebirth in equal measure. Perhaps he’ll reunite with his lost love, or vanquish his archenemy. It’s a long shot, but Babenko’s novel shows how the universe, while ordered, is still full of surprises and miracles. Anything is possible…even eternal love.
Thick with deep discussions and heady concepts, author Vadim Babenko channels the spirit—and talent—of “hard” science fiction master Stanislaw Lem, making THE PLACE OF QUARANTINE a rare and thought-provoking journey.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader