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Quantum Night

Narrated by: Scott Aiello
Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins
4 out of 5 stars (551 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

With such compelling and provocative novels as Red Planet Blues, FlashForward, and The WWW Trilogy, Robert J. Sawyer has proven himself to be "a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation" (The New York Times). Now, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing....

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from 20 years previously - a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible - change human nature - before the entire world descends into darkness.

©2016 Robert J. Sawyer (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Sawyer's latest work is a fast-moving, mind-stretching exploration of the nature of personality and consciousness; it balances esoteric speculation with action and character." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Discombobulated, but interesting

The plot of Sawyer's latest near-future SF novel is not exactly built on a sturdy framework (to wit: if it were scaffolding, it would sway in high northerly winds) but there is enough science (quantum states of neuron tubules), characterization (dude loses his memory of doing something BAD) and warnings of overreach by an aggressive American government to give any Canadian pause.

The overall idea, that our consciousness is a result of electrons being entangled in these little pockets inside your neurons, really is fascinating, and the scientists (Hammeroff, Chalmers) are real, live, living human beings who've done some credible and amazing research in this area.

Sawyer uses these ideas to explain the various levels of psychopathy that we see in everyday people, from people who have none at all (you know, folks who don't kick dogs) to egomaniacal narcissists (who probably do kick dogs). Sawyer describes these different types of people well. And the novel isn't bad. It really isn't. It's just... all over the place. It's worth a read... or a listen... but if you're looking for a classic, hero's-journey story arc, this ain't it.

Side note to narrators everywhere (not just Scott Aiello): Do NOT try to mimic Southern accents. You will get it wrong. You got it wrong in this reading, and to be honest, none of you get it right. If you're from the South, you know what I mean. Just don't even try.

Other than that, good book.
Peace and hair grease.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Philofun in a nutshell

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I actually caught myself considering which friends to recommend this book to. On the one hand, I considered those with an academic interest in neuroscience, psychology and society. But then again, some of the novel's premises are really speculative and not based on science, and I suspect some of my scientifically inclined friends would have difficulties looking beyond those faults. Perhaps this is more for those of us who like to speculate more freely about human nature and society; we, the philosophers and private thinkers.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The book reads very well and is difficult to pause. It would have been easy to consume in one sitting, if the opportunity had materialised.

Any additional comments?

This is a novel that uses speculative neuroscience and psychology to pose interesting questions about human nature and society. It is one of those books that are difficult to talk about without dropping spoilers.

Of course, if one were to evaluate the scientific "basis" of the novel, it would be found wanting at best. But this is not science, it is entertainment and - I guess philofun would be an apt neologism; having fun with philosophical speculation.

Sawyer is getting better. I have read some earlier novels of his and this is an enhancement without doubt. I would argue Sawyer has particular problems with characterisations; his protagonists tend towards the generic. These tendencies are present in this novel as well, but at the same time Sawyer has succeeded in making the protagonists' personalities part of the plot itself. He is turning his weakness into a strength.

Overall very good story and narration. The ending tends towards the phantasmagorical in my opinion; it is interesting, but not quite as satisfactory as I would have liked. Still, a strong four stars book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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This book was really messed up

Sanctimonious and insipid psychology professor spends his time between info dumps and Star Trek jokes doing things like: killing a man on the side of the road and then having dinner with his girlfriend and her family as if nothing happened, completely avoiding his 2-year-old son with Down’s syndrome (it’s the “utilitarian way”, apparently), and violates own stance on the trolly problem by committing a massive and unethical unproven experiment on the entire world population to supposedly “save the world”. All of this without the faintest hint of irony or true introspection. I kept waiting for the protagonist to realize how horribly wrong he was and come up with a better plan. He didn’t. This book has a dark, cynical and shallow take on humanity. And unlike, say, a Vonnegut, who can find the humor or poignancy in such a place, Sawyer finds only the bleak emptiness of his so-called p-zeds.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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From 5 Stars to ZERO

I like Robert. J. Sawyer's work, the WWW trilogy and other work of his was done very well, and the story was enjoyable... But I have been less enjoying his work lately... I thought that this book might be good, and when I got it and started listening to it I thought "Great start, this book is going to be awesome"... But by the end of the book I just wanted to delete it and never think about it ever again...

The plot was stupid, I thought the story is going in a certain path, but all the sudden it changed to something completely different.... I'm going to explain things here, so if you want to still go ahead and buy it, then don't read the following:

In this world, a psychologist figured out that there a 3 type of humans, let's call them the dummy ones (robots), the evil ones and the smart good guys. Then at the end of the story, the guy wanted to change the whole population of earth so robots become smart, emil become dummies, and smart become evil...

Honestly this is a stupid story, and I wish I didn't waste my credit .,.. I'm sorry Mr. Sawyer, am not attacking you , I love some of your other work... It just this one wasn't awful... And the sad bit is, that I liked the characters, I really did... But the plot was awful

I you liked Sawyer's other work, then please, don't waste your time listening to this one. Go and read the WWW trilogy, much better work.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Main character had some very annoying traits

Without giving away the plot, the main character Jim has some cringe worthy traits and they are not what you might think they would be. This book is not a bad listen but Jim's excessive altruism makes me queasy. His overly devoted sense of guilt for the rest of the world is too much to bear. His morals are skewed and inconsistent. Esentially I didn't really like him. Best to have a listen and decide for yourself.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

As always, challenging ideas

Robert J. Sawyer is the king of taking a cutting edge theory and taking it to new levels, even if these take him to areas that some sci-fi readers find discomforting as he did in Calculating God. 

This book focuses on two interesting areas and he manages to link them well. The key character in the book, set ahead only a few years into 2020, is Jim Marchuk who works as an experimental psychologist. He also lives as a utilitarian and spends a lot of time in his classes teaching through thought experiments like those developed by Australian philosopher Peter Singer. Marchuk has also developed a foolproof method for identifying psychopaths and occasionally works as an expert witness in trials.

During one of these trials Marchuk is cross-examined and realizes that there is a half-year period in his life for which he has no memories. When he returns to the university where he works, he asks an old friend and former professor about the time. The professor encourages him to let sleeping dogs lie. 

While trying to recover his past he runs into Kayla Huron, who he learns he had a romantic relationship with during the missing time. He also learns that he did something awful to her that caused her to end the relationship. It's now 20 years later and she's willing to communicate with him again. Kayla is now a quantum physicist and is working with some new theories in quantum mind in which various states of mind are caused by the superpositions of electrons in the brain. She's also sure that a considerable number of humans are what have been called philosophical zombies, or people with no actual inner life. Her work intersects with his studies of psychopathic behavior.
As the book evolves the two theories begin to come together as Marchuk realizes just how horrible his behavior was and the original cause. It has also become a time of increasing conflict, apparently caused by world leaders who are psychopaths themselves. With his utilitarian mindset (one should work for the benefit of the greatest number of people) he develops a plan that could alter the conscious state of billions of people at a time. Who will change and how becomes a major part of the story. Will people who are now psychopathic become saintly? Will some people become psychopathic? 

Sawyer tackles all this and also includes excellent action sequences, as well as his now traditional rooting for his native Canada and some ideas that may send you to other books. If you like a sci-fi book with some challenging concepts this is a great read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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great story

great story, had a good ending but a little different ending than expected. good overall

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wow!

Now THIS is a good read! Quantum Night is full of surprises and thought provoking concepts, and it is totally entertaining. It's also chillingly close to our current political reality - how did Sawyer do that? Does he have a crystal ball?
Quantum Night is a very well written book and I'll remember it for a long time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Ideological Clap Trap

Take one self righteous pedant. Add a simplistic authoritarian worldview. Eliminate any notion of the intrinsic value in every human being and replace it with a crass mathematical notion of good. Dress up the vile eugenics theories of a century ago in modern science fiction clothing and mix liberally. Leven the brew with sanctimonious self indulgence.

And you will have Robt Sawyer's latest, disappointing, lamentable, novel. Now throw this entire mess down the nearest toilet.

Absurdly epic fail. And if Sawyer's irredeemably silly philosophical premise were not enough to doom this work, it's presentation in a boring, repetitive story would be.

I am uncertain if this is somehow the latest manifestation of the Trump Derangement Syndrome that seems to be spreading across America or just a tragic example of the declining talents of a once-fine writer. No matter, really, this is not worth your time, your money, or your credit. Flee and save a half day of your life.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Nice story! Details deep.

This story was fairly easy and enjoyable to follow.
The details got difficult and deep at points.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Xdresser
  • 05-23-16

Near future setting. Moral dilemmas faced with unconvincing technology

The book starts well with a top psychologist acting as an expert witness at a murder trial involving the death penalty only to discover there is a period of his own life he has no memories of. He traces the problem back to scientific experiments he helped with as a student. There is some serious discussion of the basis of morality but the application of quantum physics to the brain failed to convince me and when it went on to tackle World War Three it lost me altogether.