Genre: Fantasy, although the author claims science fiction
Twelve-year-old Zoe Stanton’s happy home turns into a morose and lonely place when her mother is killed by a drunk driver. Her father sinks into depression, and she assumes the burden of trying to restore some cheer to the household. She fails, and her father goes missing. Zoe and her friend, Joshie, who has also lost his parents, go in search of her father in a “venture deep into the weird world of quantum theory.”
“Born in the City of Angels. Raised in The Last Frontier. Lived in the City of Roses and can remember when Portlandia was just a statue. Turned up MIA in the Big Apple and have seen the Moon Over Parma firsthand. Currently residing in the Biggest Little City in the World. I name my kids after outlaws, scientists and troubadours in the hopes that their future will be forever more interesting than my dreams.”
I picked up Infinite Zoe for review because I’m a fan of science fiction, the sample text on Amazon revealed a pleasantly clean writing style and the author promised an adventure in string theory and quantum physics.
I also became engaged enough to want to know what happens to the main characters, Zoe and her pal Joshie, and I was curious to see how Kingfisher used quantum physics, string theory and a multiverse in a kids story.
It turns out that he doesn’t, although he does sprinkle jargon “superposition, decoherence,” and such, throughout the story. The author applies the physics of the very small to people-sized objects with little regard for science. String theory gets only a name mention and a multiverse is described as a place where “theoretically anything is possible,” including pony-sized seahorses that can fly, in abeyance of quantum or any other extant physics theory.
The author then tries to explain the oddity by noting that scientists are actually studying the breakdown of physical laws. Well sort of, such study primarily involves mutations in numerical constants in some physics equations over long periods. It might have been better to echo Einstein and just say quantum physics suggests “spooky” events and be done with it. In the spirit of, “radioactive spider bites Peter Parker--Pete gets superhuman powers.” Not science, but cool, let’s get on with the adventure.
While dropping science terms, Kingfisher evokes Chronicles of Narnia. Through a closet in the father’s basement, Zoe and Joshie enter an infinite tunnel of doors opening into ephemeral worlds that the author describes as existing momentarily in the way quantum bonds between electrons exist before decoherence sets in. However, the heroes are able to explore the quickly vanishing worlds because for them time stops. There is no explanation of why events are able to unfold in the worlds with time at a standstill.
Michio Kaku suggests, I assume whimsically, that déjà vu might result from brief interactions between universes when string vibrations are in phase. Something like that might have been better exploited than a basement closet that’s a portal to the infinite.
The author plays as loosely with the story’s internal logic as he does with science. In one world, Zoe meets “copies” of her parents who recognize her. She and Joshie have dinner with them. One wonders what happened to Zoe’s “copy,” which must exist. Why wasn’t she also home for dinner? He uses the phrases: “all things are possible” and “anything that can happen will happen” to explain the impossible. He seems to use them interchangeably even though their meanings are quite different.
For all my irritations at the author’s faux science and lack of discipline in maintaining logic and focus on a target audience (I assume young people), I wanted to know the fate of Zoe and Joshie. The bitter-sweet ending does not disappoint.
None worth noting
Rating: *** Three Stars
Reviewed by: Sam Waite
Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words