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.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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