Short Story Review: “The Machine Starts” by Greg Bear

3 of 5 stars.

Like science fiction itself, quantum mechanics follows its own rules with dimensions beyond the standard four easily conceivable ones paving the way for multi-verse theories and subparticles oscillating between universes. And that’s actual science. Just add a plot and it’s back to science fiction.

This tale follows a highly protected and top secret warehouse, where a team of scientists and technicians work on their latest quantum computer to top all computers. Rather than work in binary bits, it works in qubits, quantum bits, of trapped electron clouds paired across a 12 meter spherical computer dubbed 8 Ball. After many failures to get 8 Ball up and running and with funding on the verge of being cut off, desperation has the team re-feed the ejected error messages back into the computer to self-correct with the theory that it can tap into other versions of itself across the multi-verse. Most of team finds the idea laughable. But the computer starts to spew out hard data in record time.

Eerily, evidence starts to emerge of the individual scientists being in multiple places at once. Or coming and going from offices and labs more often than possible. To ensure there’s no breach or prank being played, two of the scientists watch their offices from the safety of the security office videos only to see that one of the offices is simultaneously occupied by one of the scientists in security . . .

This tale appears in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I received this new anthology from Netgalley.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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