The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh: A Review

Five stars to this outstanding debut middle-grades novel.

The door into another world is as old as Alice in Wonderland and as new as Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, with many many interpretations and reiterations in between (and since). In The Quantum Door, Jonathan Ballagh’s debut novel, it is given a familiar yet fresh treatment in this middle-grades science fiction story set a very few years in the future.

Brothers Brady and Felix are attracted by a faint light in the forest behind their Vermont home, a forest that has recently been purchased and fenced with No Trespassing signs. Felix, the younger and more technologically-oriented brother, attempts to investigate with a drone, leading to the discovery of the quantum door, a door into a parallel universe fraught with menace and danger.

The door has been constructed by Nova, a strong, resourceful female character who appears to be roughly the same age as the boys. With her robotic, AI dog – a canidroid? – Achilles, she is attempting to find a safe place away from the Elder Minds, the artificial, evolving intelligences that now rule her world.

The Quantum Door is imaginative and fast-paced, introducing young readers to many of the classic science fiction themes. The science and the technology is realistic and feasible, building on current knowledge, devices and systems. The scenes of the underworld where the Neurogeists, constructed creatures that house the reprogrammed minds of transgressors of the Elder Minds’ rules, are resonant of many dystopias portrayed in text and film, and yet manage to be fresh horror.

A mention must be given to the outstanding illustrations by Ben J. Adams. Dark and fractured, they convey the dystopian side of this novel perfectly.

The reading level and story complexity are also worthy of mention: they are appropriate to the age group to which this book is aimed, without talking down in any way. This is a book that in my previous career in education I would have been recommending to middle-grade teachers without hesitation. Five stars to this outstanding debut novel, and here’s hoping for a sequel.

This is an independent review of copy of the book provided by the author. The opinions stated here are mine alone.

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