A Quantum Murder [1994]

At its heart, this is a formal detective novel of the “country manor” variety – it couldn’t be more quintessentially English. A group of scientists are at an isolated manor when one is killed – whodunit? The expected character list of a formal novel are all present; I think if you took a cast list from classic-era Christie you would probably find an analogue for each character in here. And the solution to the puzzle is just as convoluted and tangential as you’d expect.

After Judas Unchained I decided I would not read any more of his books. Two things mostly: I started to feel he was excessively detail-focused, meaning that he explained every little thing in great detail, and I think that he had absolutely no feel for “ordinary” characters. There are very very few ordinary characters in his novels, while he is prepared to lavish any level of over-achievement on his principle cast.

Both of these traits are strongly in evidence in A Quantum Murder, but both are essential to the functioning of a formal detective novel. Character in the formal detective novel have usually been upper class, with skills and interests beyond the ken of the working class – so too, Hamilton’s characters. And a detective author throwing lots of details in is commonplace – they are merely SF details here instead of whatever obscure anthropology is more usually called on.

What is interesting about the novel then, is its perfect adaptation of classic detective novel archetypes into a hard SF setting, with a hard SF solution to the mystery. For someone with an interest in both, the book offers an immediate chance to start deconstructing how the two genre structures interact.

It is also potentially interesting if you want to trace the origin of Hamilton’s world-building traits. Most of the hard SF concepts that appear in A Quantum Murder are still hazy and obviously in development. All of them will re-appear in their completed form in Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, via some partial completions in Night’s Dawn.

Overall… I think this was the second most enjoyable of Hamilton’s books that I’ve read after Fallen Dragon, which also has a strong traditional story skeleton. However, I don’t feel any need to read either of the other books in this sequence.

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2 Responses to A Quantum Murder [1994]

  1. drbunnyhops says:

    I went off Peter F Hamilton after reading Misspent Youth, which was like some old guys’ sick sex fantasy!

    • mashugenah says:

      I haven’t read it. It seemed like it was going to be about exploring the implications of the rejuve technology that was already done to death in Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained.

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