Quarantine (1992)

Backcover Synopsis: It causes riots and religions. It has people dancing in the streets and leaping off skyscrapers. And it’s all because of the impenetrable gray shield that slid into place around the solar system on the night of November 15, 2034. Some see the Bubble as the revenge of an insane God. Some see it as justice. Some even see it as protection. But one thing is for certain – now there is the universe, and the earth. And never the twain shall meet. Or so it seems. Until a bio-enchanced PI named Nick Stavrianos takes on a job for an anonymous client: find a girl named Laura who disappeared from a mental institution by the most direct possible method – walking through the walls.

Quarantine was the first thing I’ve read by Egan years ago (I think it was 1996), and it blew me away. After that I read most of his other stuff in rapid succession, and each blew me away even more (well, Teranesia changed that). For me he was the most important SF author to emerge in the 90s, the most visionary and boldest of them all. But back to the book.

Neat ideas – Egan’s books are always full of them – overflowing your cerebral cortex until you think your mind is expanding with the speed of light. And then there’s the ending. His first three books had the endings with the most wow-factor. His first book is the most mundane (apart from Teranesia), the main character is a PI searching for a missing person. But that’s where all mundaneness ends.

The weirdness enters when you combine an interpretation of quantum theory with nanotechnological headware. And even if you now think you know what’s going on, you don’t.