"Fine Structure" review


Title: Fine Structure

Author: qntm

Subgenre: Science fiction

2021 Bingo squares: Self published, Chapter titles, First contact

Recommended if: you loved the movie Primer

Not recommended if: you want everything to make sense the first time you read it. Or the second.

Stars: 4.5/5


Fine Structure is available for free online.

Fine Structure is one of those books that you read once, then you either read again two or three more times, this time taking notes, or you immediately google “Fine Structure explanation” and read the results of other people doing the same. I’ll save you that googling part for the second option and link the FAQ (yes, the author has an FAQ page). It does, at least, make a lot more sense than Primer.

I’m not sure if there’s even a point in writing anything about the premise, because by this point you probably already know if you’re the kind of person who likes this kind of book or not, but here goes: In the present day, some physicists make a discovery of a set of communications channels, none of which they can use, but one of which is broadcasting a message containing a wealth of scientific information. In the near future, superheroes begin to be born, one a year, each with twice the power of the one the year before. And in the distant future, we witness the events of humans surviving in post-apocalyptic times. Well, post-several-apocalypses.

Events are not presented in chronological order.

I had a ton of fun reading this; I only read it once, and afterwards I went to the FAQ, which clarified a lot of things for me. I was able to figure out the majority of what we were “supposed” to when I read it for the first time, but I’m using the loosest possible definition of “the majority” here.

There’s not much to get out of this book other than the plot - only one character really has a meaningful arc or personality, and the others are all basically plot-device containers for their actions, but if you’re interested in this novel, you’re probably only interested in it for the sake of piecing together the plot, so that’s not really an issue.

If you liked Primer, you’ll probably like Fine Structure; if this review makes Fine Structure sound appealing, and you haven’t seen Primer, then go watch Primer instead, because that movie is a much better execution of a first-time-it-makes-no-sense-but-it’s-so-cool science fiction story. Then come back and read Fine Structure in a year, when you’ve recovered from Primer (you think I’m joking). If this just sounds like pain, then you’re probably a more sane person than I am, and read something else. But I loved this.

Cover of Fine Structure

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River is a MediaWiki developer and admins Leaguepedia. This blog contains her fantasy novel reviews.