Quantum Jump:
A Survival Guide for the Next Renaissance

by W. R. Clement,
528 pages,
ISBN: 1895837456

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Ted Whittaker

A clutch of short reviews could be written by exasperated specialists about the major topics touched upon in the sprawling, fitfully enlightening testament entitled Quantum Jump: A Survival Guide for the New Renaissance (Insomniac, 488 pages, $24.99 paper). William Clement's assessment of our "era transition", with its "quantum jump of the level of abstraction" (a.k.a. "world view" or "conventional wisdom") gets here a general assessment, all it deserves and all it is likely to receive.

To his credit, Clement drops names of authors and books he has found useful. These last are popularizations of technical and scientific matters, histories, philosophies, studies of political science, current fictions.

Quantum Jump is written at the comprehension level of lexic high-school students. Similar in tone to those ...for Beginners cartoon manuals, Clement's text is often jokey and sarcastic. It is larded with cautionary tales in contrasting sans-serif type, set off as huge page-bottoming observations. Clement's smart-ass, debunking, often grammatically shoddy prose may win him readers among the trusting young and the technically adept; those who don't possess the right stuff are "losers" or are "marginal". To cut losses, Clement offers many savvy employment strategies, management and investment tips, unpleasant dissing of too-tolerant pluralism, and fierce critiques of international trading practices.

There may be a few semi-discrete essays in Quantum Jump screaming to get out. Clement practises what he preaches, "tangential thought", or what Dave Barry, the sage of Miami, calls random neural firings. Clement is neurotically repetitive and also he does not understand the virtues of expository sequence. He forsakes truly useful forms of rhetorical arrangement of points to be made for the dubious pleasures of caroming off the wall. Prose written in part to score points about the wisdom of lateral thinking does not convince readers by violently yoking together the most heterogeneous ideas.

Clement's mischief could perhaps have been curbed if his editor had taken him out behind the barn before he ever wrote a word. How is a writer innocent of the mechanics of explicative prose going to convince anyone of the need to comprehend quantum theory? We in the West have inherited a series of consensual agreements, dating from Aristotle at least, about the effective ways in which thought proceeds through non-poetic discourse. Clement, to his peril, ditches these. Moreover, giving his audience the indiscriminate benefits of his first-, second-, and third- hand research into a crowd of subjects, he eschews documentation. The educated generalist cannot tell whether the heightened rants concerning the New World Order, for example, hit anywhere near the mark or whether they miss it entirely. Clement fails to suggest that any gradation in intelligence is essential to discern between the relative importance of understanding the uncertainty principle and Tank Girl. There is almost no way to learn anything important from Quantum Jump alone, it is such a vainglorious and chaotic tract. 

Ted Whittaker


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