Supersymmetry: A thriller with cool science and lots of heart

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSupersymmetry by David Walton fantasy book reviewsSupersymmetry by David Walton

Warning: May contain mild spoilers for Superposition

Supersymmetry is David Walton’s sequel to Superposition. While Superposition was a quantum physics murder mystery, Supersymmetry is a thriller. The action starts on page 8 and never really flags, and yes, the physics do matter.

In the first book, Jacob Kelley and his family battled an intelligent quantum entity they called the varcolac. They prevailed, but the struggle resulted in a quantum event that split the Kelley’s teenaged daughter Allesandra into two people (two points on a probability wave). Now fifteen years later, their wave has not resolved itself, and the twins, as they style themselves, have grown into adults with separate interests. Sandra is a beat cop with aspirations to be a detective, while Alex has followed in her physicist father’s footsteps and is working on a contract for the Department of Defense.

A devastating attack on a sports stadium puts the Kelley family in danger, and heightens political tensions, since the US assumes this is a terrorist attack authored by an increasingly bellicose Turkey. As Sandra confronts the aftermath of the stadium attack and meets the smart and flippant Angel (An-hel), a major secondary character, Alex prepares for a demonstration to the DOD, showing off quantum weapons. The demonstration goes wrong and suddenly Alex is wanted for multiple murder.

Both women reluctantly put their trust in Ryan Oronzi, a brilliant but disturbed physicist who is already in communication with the varcolac, although he doesn’t know it. Oronzi is a bit strange out of the starting gate.

He walked past the bank of elevators and took the stairs at a jog. He never used the elevators, and he wasn’t about to start now. His colleagues thought it was claustrophobia, but they were wrong. An elevator was a potentially lethal piece of technology that Ryan himself had not designed, and that made it suspect. Yes, he knew about safety brakes, as well as the more modern electromagnetic locking mechanisms, but what would happen if those systems failed? A quick plunge to a spectacular death, that’s what.

Oronzi’s isolation, his phobias and his belief in his innate superiority over others make him easy prey for the quantum entity, but he is still a human with a moral code, and his struggle made me root for him even though I didn’t like him.

Supersymmetry shares plenty of high-tech toys. Sandra and Alex learn to teleport and can become invisible. Their quantum gadgets have their limitations, and those limitations become part of the plot. The odds are stacked against the young women, and the stakes are rapidly rising as the US mobilizes for war. The quantum twins must decide who they can trust: the police? Oronzi? A convicted murderer? Sandra’s quirky friend Angel?

The book is fast-paced — attacks! Jail breaks! Chase scenes! Blowing stuff up! — but there is time to develop the characters of the quantum twins, and Walton does a good job here. Each woman sees the other as the “original” Allesandra, and both of them worry about what will happen when the probability wave resolves — and so did I, because the varcolac’s objective, or one of them at least, is eliminating the twins and collapsing that wave.

The physics is integral to the story, and Walton makes even the most outlandish things (invisibility, even time travel) plausible. Angel, who quips his way through everything, has a deep religious faith and there is a humorous, playful discussion about the role of a divine being in a quantum universe. I really liked this theme; it’s a small part of Supersymmetry, but Angel’s belief provides an alternate view of reality that made me think, and gives Sandra a moment of insight when she really needs one.

This book brings back a few characters from the first book, but the story belongs to Oronzi and the quantum twins. The final climax careens toward us at a breakneck pace but even then Walton includes a short physics lesson that doesn’t slow down the action.

In Superposition, I thought Walton’s dialogue was a bit stilted in places. In Supersymmetry Walton’s dialogue reads as naturalistic. I think Angel’s banter helps with this. The story flows, and the characters’ motivations heighten suspense.

Supersymmetry is a story with cool science and a good heart. All in all, I was completely entertained by this smart, imaginative quantum thriller.


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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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6 comments

  1. I’m looking forward to reading these books!

  2. Both of these books were great fun! I thought the science behind the technology was a little bit more difficult to understand in this one, but the use of the time-travel was amazing.

    • He managed to pull off time travel, something I never believe unless there’s a blue telephone box and a guy with a British/Scottish accent around.

  3. Thanks, Marion! If anyone is interested, Superposition just happens to be today’s Kindle Daily Deal:

    http://amzn.to/1Iobobw

    ($2.99 in any e-reader format for one day only.)

    • Thanks for letting us know! And I see that the audio can be added for an additional $2.99, which I will purchase.. But I don’t see an audio version of Supersymmetry…. will it be coming out in audio format?

      • Yes, there will be an audio version. I had assumed it would come out the same day as the paper book (Sept. 1), but I don’t know for sure. I guess I’d better find out!

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