Quarantine was a rather strange game released by GameTek (although I recall Konami had some passing involvement) for the PC in or around 1993. It predates Carmageddon and Crazy Taxi by several years but has gameplay elements that will be familiar to fans of either game. The plot is lifted from the cult classic movie Escape from New York. A city has been fenced off and used as a massive prison. You, as a hover-taxi driver, have to make enough money to upgrade your car to the point where you can jump the wall and escape.

To allow for vast amounts of pedestrian slaughter, the plot indicates that the authorities have released a drug into the water supply that turns everyone into psychotic wandering zombies. Hugely gory, and based around an engine not dissimilar to that of Wolfenstein 3D, this game was commercially successful although the gameplay wasn't really all that great. It spawned a rather similar sequel about a year later.

A novel by Australian science fiction author Greg Egan, about a not-too-distant future where the Earth has been quarantined by an unknown alien force, in a bubble "limiting" humanity to an area approximately twice the diameter of the Solar System. The book deals with some intriguing possibilities of quantum physics.

A crisp evening breeze swirled dry leaves around the feet of the three teenagers. The makeshift table wobbled. They steadied the stolen wooden sign atop the waist-high tree trunk as the older boy placed their silent victim atop it. Overhead, the thin grey clouds parted to reveal a gibbous harvest moon.

The blade of the butcher knife, gripped firmly in the girl's left hand, glinted in the silvery moonlight. She applied light pressure, dimpling the sacrifice's flesh.

'C'mon!' implored the younger boy, as he glanced nervously about. The girl tossed her head contemptuously. Her accurate imitation of a chicken's cluck made the boy's acne-scarred face darken with anger. The girl's sable shoulder-hair shrouded her face in darkness as she bent over the tree trunk and shifted her grip. The knife flashed as the tip pierced skin and then sliced deeply into moist, red flesh. Sticky red liquid squirted out over the blade. She raised it to her lips and delicately licked some away. 'How sweet it is!' she chuckled with satisfaction. She carved off a moist chunk for each of the boys, and another for herself.

They feasted, oblivious to the near-silent footfalls approaching in the darkness until a soft sigh made them start guiltily. They spun, wiping the incriminating stains from their mouths and hands as best they could, to look at the small man dressed in canvas pants and a faded flannel shirt. His worn International Harvester cap threw his time-creased face into shadow. 'What you do, it is forbidden!' the farmer said sharply. He strode forward angrily and spun the wooden sign over, flinging the messy remnants atop it into the nearby ditch. 'Can you not read?' he demanded as he slammed the sign back onto the trunk, right-side up.

A bright crimson bar that read 'Quarantine' and contained several government logos and the biohazard symbol crossed diagonally over the sign. Beneath, some of the characters that spelled out 'Zhou's experimental farm' could be seen.

'The government has condemned my crops!' Zhou shouted angrily. 'Tomorrow they burn all! The Greens says the modifications might get into the insects. You understand genetic modifications?' he asked the teens, looking up into their faces. The boys' faces showed fear and shame, the girl only contempt. She said 'Yeah, gramps. We get it. Tomatoes that taste like strawberries and are the size of human heads … 'tain't nacheral is it?' she said, slipping into a wicked parody of the local rural accent.

Her tone stung Zhou's already-wounded pride. 'Go!' he shouted, waving his arms. 'Take what you have stolen! They will not know a few are missing when they come to burn my work to ashes. Enjoy!' Zhou turned away bitterly.

The teens glanced at each other and then walked to the bushes where they'd hidden the massive urban assault vehicle that the older boy had wheedled from his father for tonight's activities. They clambered into the king cab, the girl at the wheel even though she wasn't yet licensed to drive. She eased out of the bushes and braked hard as they came up to Zhou, jerking the vehicle to an abrupt halt. She leaned out the window. 'We've got several bushels of your fancy fruit, pops. Gonna sell them in the city. Have yourself a nice bonfire!' She threw the vehicle into gear and spun out, gravel pelting the roadside like shrapnel.

Zhou watched them go impassively. His cheek stung where a stone had struck him. He wondered how long the truck had been parked in the bushes, and whether he ought to have warned them. The insects would have been drawn to the warmth of the truck cab. He wondered how many had gotten inside.

In the truck, Korn blared from the sound system as it raced down the side road. In the back seat, the younger boy started as he felt something pinch the back of his neck. He turned to look behind him and screamed as a beetle the size of a small dog mounted the seat, pincers clacking.…


For The Blood is the Life: A Frightful Halloween Quest.

Movie synopsis: "28 Days Later" in a house, but funny.

Psychological scare factor: 3/10
"Shocker" scare factor: 7/10
Zombie originality factor: 4/10
Environment Believability: 8/10
Character Believability: 3/10
Overall scariness: 3.5/10*

*(NOTE: "shocker" scare factor does not affect the cumulative scariness of a film, as the discerning viewer will be progressively less shocked with each scare, until it has reached the floor value of the psychological scare factor. That is to say, no movie can be significantly scarier than the lowest of its psych/shock scare factors.)

Warning: Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

This movie disappointed me severely. To start with, I knew it was ragebies as soon as the old lady started foaming at the mouth. Literally, I called it in the first 10 minutes. However, it didn't amount to much, as they quickly allude to a sick dog (!) and we then learn that a vet is in the building (!). Within 30 minutes, it's clear that the characters are being affected by some form of hyper rabies. This was a strange choice, because usually movies like this will establish what the Scary Thing is right off the bat, or won't tell you until the very end (if they tell you at all). Instead, it feels like they're ramping up to the eventual discovery, only to prematurely ejaculate one third of the way in. "Oops!"

The characters are sometimes stupendously stupid. Even after it's abundantly clear that people who foam at the mouth eventually go berserk and bite people, normally cogent men and women put down their pistols and assault rifles so they can extend helping hands or turn their backs. The zombies are scary, but are clearly vapid throwbacks to the rage-freak apparitions of 28 Days Later. This movie might actually have been billed better as a comedy--there's a delightful Aliens homage towards the end, and I'm fairly certain that it becomes self-satiring when the cameraman bludgeons a zombie to death with the lens (!) of his camera, covering it in blood as the viewers are repeatedly rocketed into the increasingly shapeless forehead of the hapless rabid monster. "HIT 'EM AGAIN!" The scrupulous viewer would claim that the cameraman starts sobbing as he wipes the blood off, but I'm pretty sure he was trying not to burst out laughing. I sure was.

The movie draws to an eventual climax (?) of the hot protagonist and her stoic cameraman venturing into the house's attic, where they find Gollum, who is apparently from Boston and has been brewing an Armageddon virus. After he stumbles around and scratches his ass for a while, the newswoman can't take his gurgly noises anymore and squeaks, which causes Gollum to pummel the cameraman to death and eat him. Then she makes another noise, so he takes a break to pummel and eat her, too. The end.

There is very little "WTF" psycho-thriller content in this movie--mostly it's creepy almost-human pale faces being flashed in front of the camera while people shriek and die. There are a few gory wounds, but not enough for it to be bloodporn, and the token "OH GOD OH GOD I'M FREAKING OUT LET'S RUN OH GOD ZOMBIES OH GOD DID YOU GET BIT NO OH GOD DID YOU OKAY NO WAY OH GOD I'M A ZOMBIE NOW RUN FROM ME OH GOD YOU ARE DELICIOUS" scene. Oh, and did I mention that the entire movie is shot in Shaky-Cam™? I'm fairly certain that at one point, I ached for a stable shot. Literally, I felt it in my very nerve-endings. "Hold still," I thought. "Hold still long enough for terror to whisper in my ear." But, it wasn't to be.

NEXT!

Quarantine
by Greg Egan
Legend, 1992

Quarantine is a transhumanist (maybe) science fiction novel dealing with quantum mechanics. It is also Greg Egan's first novel, and is very much in line with his later novels. It is sometimes lumped with Permutation City and Distress in a loose series (the "Subjective Cosmology Series"), but these books are only related in that they deal with, you guessed it, subjective cosmologies.

Theoretically, this book is about that time when aliens came around and constructed a 12 billion km sphere around the solar system without asking. But actually, that happened decades ago, and most people aren't too upset about it anymore -- it's not like we had any missions to Alpha Centauri on the planning board or anything.

So actually, this is the story of a private detective who is hired to investigate a mysterious kidnapping, and accidentally stumbles on an international conspiracy to hack quantum mechanics. This is a hard book to review without spoilers, as the first half is fast-moving, full of interesting technology, and a bit twisty, but the second half is actually the main point of the story. The second half is about the physical potential and psychological problems that go along with advanced quantum technology, which makes it a little bit less fast-moving, a little bit more twisty, and easy to spoil.

All in all, this is a pretty good book set in an interesting future. In 2066 apps are installed directly into your neural implants, security and counter-security are serious business, and nations are just starting to look redundant. It's not quite cyberpunk, but it's heading in that direction. The hero is smart, the author is smarter, and the science is basically good. It is probably worth reading for this alone.

And you might read it for this alone; the quantum theory is interesting, but perhaps not as interesting as Egan thinks. While it is a good introduction to some of the basics of quantum theory, it is also somewhat repetitive. While in 1992 it was reasonable to assume that a reader of popular science fiction didn't necessarily understand or know how to relate to quantum weirdness, this is less true today. In particular, the character's emotional response to the possible existence of alternate universes seems a bit overwrought, although Egan makes it work better than it should. Somewhat related to this, Egan has a habit of avoiding happy endings, and not simply happy in the sense of making the good guys win. He prefers nihilism (in both senses) to any sense of fulfilment or completion.

Overall, this is a good work of hard science fiction and a non-standard but also good work of transhumanist science fiction, and is worth reading if those interest you. It is also a good entry point into Egan's works, highlighting his intelligence, inventiveness, and ontological cynicism.

Quar"an*tine (?), n. [F. quarantaine, OF. quaranteine, fr. F. quarante forty, L. quadraginta, akin to quattuor four, and E. four: cf. It. quarantina, quarentine. See Four, and cf. Quadragesima.]

1.

A space of forty days; -- used of Lent.

2.

Specifically, the term, originally of forty days, during which a ship arriving in port, and suspected of being infected a malignant contagious disease, is obliged to forbear all intercourse with the shore; hence, such restraint or inhibition of intercourse; also, the place where infected or prohibited vessels are stationed.

Quarantine is now applied also to any forced stoppage of travel or communication on account of malignant contagious disease, on land as well as by sea.

3. Eng.Law

The period of forty days during which the widow had the privilege of remaining in the mansion house of which her husband died seized.

Quarantine flag, a yellow flag hoisted at the fore of a vessel or hung from a building, to give warning of an infectious disease; -- called also the yellow jack, and yellow flag.

 

© Webster 1913.


Quar`an*tine" (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Quarantined (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Quarantining.]

To compel to remain at a distance, or in a given place, without intercourse, when suspected of having contagious disease; to put under, or in, quarantine.

 

© Webster 1913.

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