Greg Egan’s science-fiction novel is set in the year 2067 in a world where the solar system has been enclosed by an unbreakable barrier put in place by an unknown extraterrestrial force. Nick Stavriano is hired to find a brain-damaged woman named Laura Andrews, who has disappeared from her institution. Following her to Hong Kong, Stavriano’s case leads him closer to the mysterious force that’s “quarantined” the solar system.
What I find fascinating is the fact that the hero in this story is aided by a skull full of neural modifications. The book starts with him receiving loads of information directly to his brain while he is sleeping. The whole idea of these neural “moods” is quite similar to the way we install apps on our phone. And that’s so cool, because imagine how easy it would be to have maps, calendar and what’app directly in your brain.
The “ensemble” is a special kind of mood which exploits aspects of Quantum Physics to avoid the collapse of the wave function. That opens up the possibility of choosing from infinite alternate realities which starts a crazy chain of events culminating in a grand feast of what would be considered completely impossible.