Some ideas for discussion
For reading groups
Schrödinger's Caterpillar is intended to be read on many different levels. Discuss what these might be.
At its simplest it is a farcical entertainment, which hopefully can be enjoyed by anyone without any prior knowledge of quantum physics, or the thought experiment popularly known as Schrödinger's Cat. But it is a thought experiment in its own right. Quantum physics made easy! It explains some tricky and often misunderstood concepts in physics and Operational Research, such as the Travelling Salesman problem.
It allows us to explore the implications of an alternate parallel universe - indeed a froth of multiplying universes.
It raises philosophical questions.
It questions the conventional structure of the novel, allowing the narrator to break accepted rules. Is the narrator omniscient, or do they observe from a specific perspective? What is the evidence? Visually? In terms of what the narrator knows?
Schrödinger's Caterpillar provides the protagonists with an awareness of their context, within a book. What if people will only read it if they are entertaining enough? How much pressure is there on them to perform?
Is Graham a moral protagonist?
What evidence is there either way? Can he murder his doppelganger Grim with a clear conscience? After all, he may merely be consigning him to an alternative universe where the tables are turned. So if all things are possible and all things may coexist is there any requirement to behave morally in this particular universe?
Do we sympathise with Graham? Why?
What does he want to achieve? He does many reprehensible things in the course of the tale. Do his flaws mirror our own?
How much insight do we gain into the mind of the author through this book?
Do the crises facing Graham also mirror his own?
And those of the reader? What are the themes?
Schrödinger’s Cat theory/thought experiment/quantum mechanics
Nature vs nurture
Corporations/arms trade/evil empires
Literary theory, form, experiments
Fear of failing to reach our potential
Good vs evil
Is the ‘first’ Graham really the most virtuous? He may be the one we are rooting for, but Hammy may be a 'better' person. Yet even Hammy is prepared to attempt to kill Graham.
What do we explore about the morality of doing a bad deed in a good cause?
How important is the plot?
This is more than a succession of amusing incidents. The storyline is a vital part of our journey. So is it a satisfying ride?
Would the book be stronger or weaker without the alternative endings?
Is the ambiguity satisfying? Is it a cop-out, or a logical consequence of the philosphical questions explored?
How many of the scenes are real, and how many from the author's deranged imagination?
Wouldn't you just like to know?