Auto Ads by Adsense

Monday, April 03, 2023

Review: Ra

 Ra is a novel which dramatically changes its nature 3/4 of the way through the book. Since I don't really wish to spoil the book, I'll write about the surface details and the writing, and hope that intrigues you enough to read the book.

The protagonists of the book are a pair of sisters, Natalie and Laura Fenro, who live in a world in which magic was discovered in 1972. This magic is reproducible and repeatable, to the point where the pioneers in the field could write equations, make computations, and by the time the novel starts, there are even ISO standards for magic circles. The two women are traumatized by an event in their childhood, wherein they watched a space shuttle launch turn into a disaster, whereupon their mom says goodbye to them, and goes on to perform magic which is beyond the state of the art at the time, yet fail to rescue the shuttle and its crew.

Both daughters proceed in their own fashions to pursue magic in order to solve the mystery of what they saw that day, and we are drawn into a plot to understand the nature of magic in their world. When the reveal comes, the author isn't hesitant to point out all the issues with the existence of magic, and the explanation is both audacious and challenging. Ideas practically ooze out of the book in every new chapter, which makes the book fun in a way that I haven't seen since Charlie Stross's short story Palimpsest or his novel Glasshouse.

It's clear that the novelist (who goes under the pseudonym qnmt) is a computer scientist/software engineer --- the thinking behind each of the ideas is solid, but the characters are all rather one dimensional. But the ideas are cool, the action is cool, and the concepts will blow your mind. Well worth the time to read (and the $4 kindle price --- since the book is self published, you won't find it in the library).

If you don't want to take the risk, try reading the short story Lena by the same author. It's free and gives you an idea of what kind of fiction qntm writes.


Here's a quote from the book to intrigue you:

Another fun fact: in 1978, a long but startlingly elegant theorem by Shilmani proved that the language of magic had a name. That is, that the language of magic contained within itself a name for the language of magic. The proof was not constructive; it was only in 1980 that Shilmani went on to prove that the name of the language of magic was, in fact, the empty string.  (pg. 293)

No comments: