Quarantine: A Novel


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My own optimism is atheistic and, I hope, less cynical.

It accepts that we all live finite lives in an implacable, unfair, probably infinite universe, but celebrates that despite the heavy troubles and the dark places we might encounter during our three-score years and 10 we are lucky to be here at all. It has been in those dark places that my fiction has sought to establish its tough optimism.


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One such dark and troubled place during the late s was the rambling hotel at the top of our street in the Birmingham suburb of Moseley. Under the Thatcherite money-snatching policy of "Care in the Community", the building had been converted into a hostel for patients with mental health problems. In this case, as a television report revealed, there was little or no care in the community but plenty of squalor, neglect and overcrowding. I had the chance one morning to sneak into its corridors.

The Loners

Here were dozens of cell-like rooms, hardly large enough to stretch your arms, occupied by a community of depressives, addicts and obsessives with little in common except their current despair. This I thought - in my cheerful, optimistic manner - would make an engrossing subject for a novel: how does a community of people, all living on the edge, secure some comfort, resolution and transcendence in what I considered to be a godless universe? If I had been a realist I could, of course, have set the novel in Thatcher's Britain and simply held a mirror up to what was happening less than half a mile from my own home.

But I do not have photographic skills as a writer. I am a fabulist, more attracted to metaphor than reportage. So the idea was left to brew for several years, until one day my metaphor dropped through the letterbox. It was a postcard sent by some friends visiting Jericho in Palestine. They have come into this wilderness to spend their time alone — to quarantine themselves away from the human world — yet they spend much of it together.

And not just with each other, but also with Miri, the bruised and pregnant wife of Musa, and with Musa, resurrected from his death mat. Musa has taken it into his mind that the thief who came into his tent and whom he saw through his fever haze — that Jesus — is a healer.

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And he feels compelled to see him again, talk to him and what else? A donkey seemed to come out of mid-air, falling through the sky at him. It dropped down the precipice to the right of his cave. It turned. It hit the rocks and bounced once more, high above the valley…Its legs were wings.

Into the Wilderness

It seemed to have no weight, no eyes. Its head was loose like cloth, as if the bones along its neck were less substantial than the air. This Jesus, though, hides. He wants nothing to do with their community. Angels left you calm of spirit when they stepped into your life. Devils left you troubled.

Quarantine (Crace novel)

Here was a devil then, sent to the wilderness, with death and fever as his friends, attended by four mad, unbelonging souls, to be adversaries to god. Jesus would not come out of the cave, no matter what they said, no matter what their slander was, no matter what they offered him. Musa may be a demon. He is certainly not a good man. He collects rent and fees, even though he does not own the land or the water.

He bullies the four — he is a salesman, after all — and bamboozles them. Nick finds Po-kwai, and both affirm that while they are not precisely scared of what is coming, they are not ready for such an existence. Po-kwai postulates that this outcome was inevitable and not the fault of smeared Nick—that instead the smeared total of all of humanity tunneled into possibility.

Humans around them begin to blur as the smeared minds begin to increase in complexity. Both watch as stars begin to appear in the sky until it is filled with blinding white light. In the Epilogue, Nick resides in a refugee camp outside of New Hong Kong, the disease apparently only spreading within the city before stopping, but not before causing massive damage and leaving millions dead, often in gruesome and fantastical ways. The only difference for Nick being that his Loyalty mod and the mod simulating love for his wife have been permanently removed, with Nick finding the idea of embracing artificial satisfaction disgusting despite his newfound grief.

It is left unclear if the Bubble still exists.

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Nick and Po-kwai part ways, confused as to why smeared humanity, after going to the trouble of coming to exist, would interact with reality outside the bubble and recoil. Nick initially believes that smeared humanity found the world outside the bubble distasteful, causing them to suicide into a single unique eigenstate again. He begins to suspect though that humanity has in fact smeared and joined the universe, and that he is merely one possibility out of infinite miracles and infinite suffering, his perceived reality being but one tiny aspect of his emergent, smeared self.

Nick tries to come to terms with this, lying awake at night contemplating it till he finally falls asleep. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification.

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Categories : novels Novels by Greg Egan Australian science fiction novels science fiction novels Hard science fiction.

Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel
Quarantine: A Novel

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