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Literature / Quarantine (1992)
aka: Quarantine

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Quarantine is a hard science fiction novel by Greg Egan.

On a future Earth enclosed within a mysterious impenetrable barrier, the protagonist, Nick, is hired to investigate the disappearance of a woman from a care home.

Tropes present in this novel:

  • Arc Words: "It all adds up to normality."
  • Assimilation Plot - Possibly. The entire planet gets turned into RealityWarpers and may or may not Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence before restoring the status quo, so that some portion of their greater-selves can continue living normal human lives on Earth
  • Bio-Augmentation - A large focus of the story is placed on "Neural Mods" that alter thought processes and/or how the user's brain works. For instance, the "Sentinel" mod allows a person to stay focused and alert through long periods of inactivity (where a normal person would get bored and distracted), and "Boss" allows a person to play with their circadian rhythm (allowing them to fall asleep at-will or set aside the effects of fatigue).
    • Nick, in particular, modded himself to not be bothered by his wife's death (by just leaving his emotionless crisis-mode mod running 24/7 from the moment she died), which is implied to be semi-common in society.
    • More conventionally, the book also mentions that most southern Australians have modded their skin to be black (regardless of their original ethnicity) to combat increased solar radiation from the destruction of the ozone layer.
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  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe - Humans are able to do this. It's also why the sphere around our solar system was put up. We were inadvertently redesigning the universe to our perceptions of what it "should" be like.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot - A mysterious kidnapping/unexplainable escape sets the protagonist off on a journey that includes corporate espionage, brain washing, possible aliens and alien-hybrids, and eventually an Assimilation Plot.
  • Dream Intro: Justified. Cop-turned-private-investigator Nick Stavrianos has a neural mod that allows people to implant information directly into his head, but only while he sleeps, because the information transfer can be dangerously traumatic for a conscious brain. The end result is that the recipient wakes up feeling as if they dreamed the communication (although in this case, it's a one-way transfer, not a conversation). The story opens with a new client offering him a job this way.
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  • Mysterious Employer - Nick never does find out the identity of his client.
  • Reality Warper - Nick finds an experimental mod that lets the user do...interesting things to the laws of probabilitynote , resulting in Reality Warper-like effects.
  • The Stars Are Going Out - At the start of the novel, an impervious sphere appears instantaneously around the entire solar system and is centered on the sun. With the light speed delay, however, it visually resembles the stars disappearing in a sweeping effect through the sky over a 16 minute period.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball - One character's stated theory about what happened at the end of the story hinges on causality flowing in directions we are not accustomed to.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion - Nick is given a technological geas to be absolutely loyal to a corporation. He eventually figures out that the leaders of the corporation may be untrustworthy, and therefore the only people he can trust and should listen to are those who unquestionably have the best interests of the corporation at heart - himself and other people given the geas. Since he can't be certain who else has the geas, he really only needs to listen to himself.

Alternative Title(s): Quarantine


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