E.C. Myers’ forthcoming QUANTUM COIN is a science-fiction action/adventure story featuring teenager Ephraim Scott, his girlfriend, Jena Kim, his girlfriend’s alternate self from a different universe, Zoe Kim, and his best friend, Nathan Mackenzie. This story is set in and on our present-day Earth, but parallel worlds, string theory, and various laws of physics come into play in this vivid, appealing sequel to FAIR COIN (reviewed here).
As you might expect, even though Ephraim had given up his “fair coin” — the coin that allowed him access to alternate universes — at the end of the previous book, the alternate universes aren’t quite done with him yet. This is made evident when Zoe shows up; Zoe was in love with her world’s version of Ephraim, liked our Ephraim even better and nearly stayed with him in the last book, but had done the virtuous thing and stayed in her own universe. So for her to show up again, much less at Ephraim’s Senior Prom, shows that something must be desperately wrong.
After a deft recap of the events of FAIR COIN, the plot thickens nicely as Ephraim, Zoe, and Jena end up in a universe that runs faster, time-wise, than our own. This means their analogues are all older (when they’re not dead or elsewhere); we get a chance to see the fortysomething version of Jena Kim (beautiful, tired, and strained), the fortysomething version of Nathan (eccentric, tired and strained, but honorable), and hear their versions of what’s going on in the multiverse these days.
To be blunt, the situation is dire — worse even than Zoe knew when she went to get Ephraim and Jena in the first place. (Nathan, pouting all the way, ended up having to stay in our universe.) The universe seems to be folding in on itself; the math is there to support this belief, and it has something to do with all of the different possibilities that the universe has come up with. Now, the universe is contracting; as physicists, scientists, and all-around smart people, the elder Jena, the elder Nathan, and the elder Ephraim (when he was still around) have decided to pick the few universes that should continue to exist.
Of course, who are they to decide? (This is the first question Ephraim comes up with, and Zoe, too.) And is the decision they’ve made really the best one available, or is it simply due to bare necessity?
But there are other problems; in order to do what they’re proposing, they need a genius of the adult-Ephraim’s level or better, and don’t have one. That’s why they brought in younger Ephraim, as they thought he might be able to help them find one in the multiverse, before it contracts . . . while they find one (in a slow-time universe, where it’s still the early 1950s), that only leads to more and more problems for all concerned.
This is a very strong sequel that’s better written than Myers’s debut novel (which I criticized for its overuse of archetypes). Ephraim is much better fleshed out; he’s now his own, albeit still young, man, and no one else need apply whether his alternate self’s name is Ephraim or not. Nathan, too, is no longer an archetype; he’s flawed, sure, but funny, and definitely his own man. And the difference between our universe’s Jena, and her analogue, Zoe, couldn’t be more stark . . . all the way around, the point is definitely made that it’s your experiences that help make you who you are, along with the people you know and the knowledge you amass. And without all three of those things, you aren’t the same person as anyone else — not even a genetic twin such as Jena (our universe) and Zoe (alternate universe) are all that much alike if you see them as individuals, rather than imperfect copies of one another.
QUANTUM COIN is a novel that needs to be on your bookshelf, just as soon as it comes out in October; it has flair, drama, big ideas, excellent characters, and some believable, low-key romance. I enjoyed this novel thoroughly — in fact, once I’d read QUANTUM COIN, I turned right back to the beginning to start it again (something I only rarely do) because I found it that interesting and involving. And if you give it a chance — even if, like me, you weren’t a huge fan of FAIR COIN — you’ll be likely to get hooked, too.
– reviewed by Barb