Derek Künsken returns to the universe of The Quantum Evolution for his third of four planned volumes The Quantum War. Although readers of Künsken’s works may also know that this series links to his most recent book, The House of Styx, set five hundred years before. Of the three Quantum Evolution books The Quantum War rests most heavily on the events of that book with much of the action taking place in the skies of Venus.
This volume opens shortly after the events of The Quantum Garden. The war that Belasarius Arjona had a hand in starting is gathering momentum. As part of that war, and directly as a result of the events of The Quantum Garden, the Congregate has captured one hundred and fifty of Arjona’s fellow homo quantus and is modifying their brains in order to enable them to pilot their fighters. Arjona hatches a plan to rescue the survivors – a plan that will mean using himself as bait, putting his old team (from The Quantum Magician) back together and relying on a group of very unreliable allies to help him.
Despite following directly on from the previous book, The Quantum War takes a while to get going. This is partly because Künsken has to catch readers up on what has been going on in the broader galaxy. The book also jumps between the present and the action of a few months before to tell the story of the man kidnapped by the Congregate and used to find a way to weaponize the homo quantus. Once Arjona has organized to be captured and the plan starts to tick into place, the story kicks into a high gear that it never gets out of.
Künsken has demonstrated over and over again his love of heist mechanics and his ability to keep a bunch of different plot strands in motion as events play out. As always, nothing goes exactly to plan and the team have to either improvise or sacrifice in order to swing the action back in their favour. And all this action supported by a range of colourful supporting characters and moustache-twirling villains. Much of the action of The Quantum War takes place in the skies of Venus, a milieu that Künsken is incredibly comfortable in. But there is more to this than the action. Debates about religion, evolution and free will rage between the variously genetically engineered characters.
The Quantum War is another fun entry in this constantly surprising series. With one more volume expected it will be interesting to see how Künsken brings the series home. At the same time, waiting for the sequel to House of Styx to start to show how the family that readers are asked to root for in that volume became the foundation of the villains of this piece.