Meet Eric the failure. He’s a quantum physicist who stared into the abyss and got scared of what stared back – to the point that he needs to drink heavily to start his day. Or eat his gun, but he hasn’t gotten quite that far yet. A friend gives him a research job as an act of charity, with three months for Eric to get his act together and publish something new. Instead, Eric stares at the walls for a few days, then starts an old, old experiment: is light a wave or a particle? Depending on if you look at it or not. Old news.
Or… depending on who looks at it? Amazing new news! Publish!
And then the real world takes some interesting notice of this new experiment. Uh oh. Can people now figure out who has a soul? Are there some people without souls??? This could get super interesting! And then the villains show up, and I am totally underwhelmed. The villains come from aterna-verse(s) and don’t like science. Ted Kosmatka chose these villains instead of Luddites or soul-people who hate the science, and that’s fine, but a really great story needs really great villains to hold up their end of the plot, and these just didn’t cut it.
Incidentally, for a book with so many named female characters (5. 5 is really a lot in SF), I notice that 2 exist only in Eric’s head, one is the only disabled character, and while there are several scenes with more than one woman in it, no woman talks to another woman until somewhere near page 300, when one of the woman is dying. Sigh. Stil passes the Bechtel test.
As to POC – there is one Asian character, an Indian character, and there may be a black character, and they were all scientists who spent off-time together, so it passes the Johnson test as well.
Four stars for the science, three for the plot, one for the villain, average of three stars.