By and large, I don’t have high expectations from game novelizations unless the game is massive, part of a long running series, and has real depth to its lore. So when I was offered the novelization for Quantum Break, a new game, I set my expectations accordingly. Wow, I so didn’t need to do that. Cam Rogers grabbed me on page one and never let me drop through the entire book.
Quantum Break: Zero State is the story of Jack, Paul, and Beth (Zed) and Jack’s brother Will, a genius, and time. Time, its manipulation, and ultimately its end, is the backdrop for Quantum Break. The book starts as Jack, Paul, and Zed have a run in with a local gangster as teens. Zed pulls a crazy stunt and gets them out of a life-threatening situation. Jack remembers all this as he returns to his hometown years later to check on his older brother, Will. Jack and Will’s parent’s died when Will was a young adult and Jack was still a boy. Will ostensibly took care of Jack, but in reality Jack often took care of his genius brother, whose expansive mind sometimes took him into mania after the death of their parents.
The town Jack returns to is much different from the one he left. Monarch, a massive mega-corporation seems to run much of the town including as contractors for the police. Even Will now works for Monarch, although he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for creating their signature product, a time machine.
Years before Jack returns home, Will determines that chronons are the elementary particle of time, much like gravitons are the theoretical elementary particle of gravity. Once Will understands how time and causality work, he is able to build a time machine. Paul accidentally goes through that machine precipitating the events that begin the end of time.
The crux of Quantum Break is what to do about the end of time. Will is positive he can fix what Paul broke. Paul is positive he can’t. Jack and Zed (now Beth) must choose sides as time begins to breakdown around them. As normal time begins to collapse it causes stutters, bubbles of time, in which everything is frozen. Paul and Jack are able to naturally move through these bubbles, and Monarch has created chronon tech that allows their operatives to move through stutters as well, but normal people are frozen in time until the stutter resolves. As the end of time approaches the stutters increase until eventually all time is frozen.
Rogers has created an action packed tight book that still manages to have strong characterizations. Not only does the time science make sense the way he describes it, you also really feel for all the characters. Even though they are at odds with each other, each of the main characters is really doing what they think is best. As the reader you’re not really sure who is right about the end of time. Rogers also does a good job with the secondary characters. Even without a lot of page time, he deftly crafts the subordinate characters so they seem like fully realized people.
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this book. I don’t generally like time-themed sci-fi, because I usually find it too confusing or too fantastical to follow, but Rogers does a really good job keeping his science clear and based on enough real-life science to feel plausible. He makes it easy to suspend disbelief and from page one you get on board with these characters and ride all the way to the end. Good stuff. I’m really looking forward to the game. I hope it lives up to the book. Check them both out and let us know what you think in the comments below.