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Tetrastatum centers around the character, Dr. Tim Smith, who is the head of the Quantum Teleportation Program (QTP) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where his primary goal is to build a fully functioning Quantum Teleportation Image Processor that is able to instantaneously transport matter to “matter or non-matter universes anywhere within the space-time continuum.” Tim Smith, who is trapped in psychological turmoil, as he is unable to come to terms with the trauma of losing his wife and child, works with the peculiar Dr. Richard (both characters are the pseudonyms used by the authors), who has a flair for the unconventional and is an apparent philanderer. Together, they make a particularly dysfunctional pair who escape the confines of their current paradigm into an alternate dimension, where they meet the cosmic image processor. It is, at this point, that Tim Smith becomes the Time Smith. Now they are on a mission to save the space-time continuum from humanity and those who have ever tried to meddle with space-time. Naturally, this includes their employers at DARPA, who become their ultimate opponents, thus creating a beautifully comic level of irony that underlies the narrative.

Unusually, however, the plotline and action of the story do not carry the sole focus and purpose of Tetrastatum, as the subtext, and indeed the overwhelming focal point of the narrative, is the scientific study of Dr. Richard. He describes Psychothotonix℠, a field of his own conception and primary impetus behind the book, as ‘the measurement and control of human perceptions and related human behavior patterns based on space-time imaging,’ which essentially relates to the creation and interpretation of images. The driving force in creating Tetrastatum was to illuminate this new field and its surrounding theories to the general public. The authors accomplish this by using the book’s fictional narrative to make the concept relevant and more straightforward in its explanations through the use of dialogue and characters. In the opening interview with Dr. Richard, which serves as a didactic prologue, he describes Psychothotonix℠ as “an image-processing technique” that examines “thotonix and photonix images as they relate to reality,” whereby photonix and thotonix pertain to image processing. The attempt to explain and expand on some of the scientific complexities in the opening interview stands as a firm indicator of the dense nature of these challenging theories that underpin Tetrastatum. As a result of this, it is advisable that, before you immerse yourself in the narrative, you are confident with the basic definitions and applications of ‘photonix’ and ‘thotonix,’ and the fundamental difference between the two, as these concepts are primary to every aspect relating to Tetrastatum, and they are revisited and analyzed frequently throughout the entirety of the text.

That being said, the comprehension of these terms may be easier said than done, particularly as the opening chapters include a confusing plethora of convoluted explanations. For example, conference room 4D is described in a manner that makes visualization virtually impossible, and although this is part of the point, it means that readers find the imagery challenging as the descriptions and scene-setting continue to be hard to follow. Moreover, the scientific explanations can be hard-going and difficult to process if you do not have a firm understanding of rudimentary quantum-physics. For a layman, the descriptions are long, arduous, and confusing, and despite the complexity of the subject matter, it often feels as if a much more succinct, simple explanation would suffice. However, the accompanying interviews and appendices provide a level of explanatory supplementation that helps to elucidate many of the questions the average reader may have, and the index form of the appendices allows the reader to research at their leisure. Furthermore, had these passages been too simple, there would be a potential for the story to suffer from losing an element of the intellectual intrigue and scientific unattainability that is significant to the mystery of science-fiction. Undeniably, there is a difficult balance for the authors to strike, particularly if you are a Doctor of Physics.

The sexual scenes offer a light relief from the heavy subject matter in their satirical over-sexualization of almost all of the female characters, along with the protagonists’ inability to refuse any offer of sexual temptation, or in the case of Dr. Richard, at any female siting. Tim Smith is an unquestionably more complex character than Dr. Richard, despite Dr. Richard’s eccentricity, particularly as his purpose and past trauma provide a depth to his psyche that his associate sincerely lacks. Tim Smith’s dreams demonstrate a psychoanalytic poignancy with regards his present psychological state, whereby the dreams provide a profound insight into our protagonist’s story that ultimately drives the narrative.

This is not a light read; you will not be able to skim pages, and it will certainly take all of your attention to be able to readily follow the scientific areas that are being illuminated in the story. Unless you are familiar with the subject matter, or are interested in quantum physics, you will find it hard to pick up where you leave off each time without needing to recap on the previous pages, because the subject matter is so complex. However, the writing is undeniably eloquent and clearly demonstrates an individual writing style with only a smattering of grammatical errors, which is unusual for a self-publication. The author includes many delightfully enjoyable asides that illuminate us on various historical or scientific anecdotes that allow for a respite from the complexity of the primary text. Furthermore, the asylum that Tim Smith becomes a patient is a fantastic creation in the characterization of its depiction, but not necessarily in the way the reader might expect. It is full of charisma and bizarre, contradicting rules that are broken in the most peculiar ways for comic effect and anticipation. Yet it remains an element of the creepy and disturbing, and so demonstrates an impressive combination of tropes in one insane asylum. How a nurse can inquire, “You need my help to get all your little nooks and crannies cleany-weeny?” with the sincerity that the author claims is both confusing and unsettling, yet somehow, it is still appropriate for this peculiar setting. The authors’ unique narrative approach is developed further when the electroconvulsive therapy administered in the asylum is described from the perspective of the temporarily paralyzed patient, and so experiences the electric shocks only through thoughts and partial sight. Dr. Richard and Tim Smith’s mode of storytelling is refreshingly different to your average narrative, particularly as his protagonist goes with the ebb and flow of events by not resisting or questioning everything he experiences, where humans usually would. In doing so, the events are allowed to unfold smoothly and with much more pace than a narrative of behavioral realism would allow.

If Tetrastatum is considered as a book aimed at quantum-physicists and those with an understanding of the subject, rather than the average person, as it was intended, then it is a book of considerable information and intrigue that physics enthusiasts can really sink their teeth into. The storyline is interesting, eccentric, and often unpredictable, even at its most parodical. However, at points, the plot feels like an excuse for the authors to display their fountain of knowledge on various topics—be it mythology, philosophy, history, or, of course, science (although, the meaning and relevance of the book’s title, itself, is never really explained). It might, perhaps, be argued that these educational asides occur to the extent that, at points, the narrative resembles aspects of a physics dissertation, which may not necessarily be a negative, depending on the interest of the reader. However, Dr. Richard and Tim Smith use various narrative alignments with current U.S. political issues to construct a dramatically ironic socio-political criticism on the situation of the modern western world, which adds an ominous sense of foreboding in the subtext of the narrative. There are narrative elements that also align themselves with the classic style of comic books and the type of world in which they set themselves. Dr. Richard and Tim Smith’s style of writing is accentuated by Ken Krekeler’s accompanying ink illustrations of various characters from the story. Krekeler’s illustrations are strikingly hyperbolic, and perfectly compliment the caricatures within the story, adding to the parodical, superhero-esque world of Tetrastatum. The authors’ satirization of many of the characters feeds beautifully into this sense of comical humanization of fictional characters, whereby the reality of the known societal setting is distorted alongside the cryptic events of the narrative itself and, of course, the space-time continuum that is the central focus of the book. These recurring themes of characterization and distortion feed into the concern that is being voiced over the current state of our political climate and our consequent desire to escape the daunting future of our time and space. The layering of these themes is ultimately what gives Tetrastatum a relevance that will keep readers turning pages and asking questions.

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Star Count 3.5/5
Format eBook
Page Count 282 pages
Publisher Epigraph Books
Publish Date 2019-06-30
ISBN 9781948796675
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue July 2019
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy


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