The Coming of the Quantum Cats

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Weapons researchers discover a new technology for traveling between parallel dimensions of Earth history. This technology is based on the hypothesis that at certain nexus points in history, two possibilities are so evenly balanced that both occur, creating parallel universes with different histories, some very similar and some radically different. This novel takes place in several dimensions which are very similar. In one, Ronald Reagan is President; in another, Nancy Reagan; in yet another, Jerry Brown.

The military value of movement between dimensions is that weapons can be moved into another dimension, transported to their targets, then moved back to the original dimension. Attack without warning becomes possible. Americans, from a dimension in which Cold War tensions are high, attempt to force their counterparts, in a dimension where there is no Cold War, to allow the use of their dimension to attack the Soviet Union. One result is a small war between two different United States.

Caught up in this war are various sets of doubles, the main ones being Dominic DeSota and Nyla Christophe. In the invading dimension, DeSota is an army officer and Christophe is a drafted music teacher. In the invaded dimension DeSota is a senator and the lover of Christophe, who is a concert violinist.

The personal and military confusion increases as other dimensions become involved in various ways. In another dimension, DeSota is a mortgage broker and Christophe an agent of an especially repressive version of the FBI. In yet another dimension, DeSota is one of the inventors of the device which makes travel between dimensions possible.

The novel raises many questions about how these different versions of biologically identical people and their cultures might come to be and about how they might relate to each other when they meet. These issues, however, are not explored in detail. Instead, Pohl concentrates on adventures arising from the political, military, and technical complexities of this new technology.

Pohl is a prolific and popular writer of science fiction adventure. Typical of his work, this book entertainingly explores some of the consequences of an imaginary technology.