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Greg Egan

Greg Egan specialises in hard science fiction stories with mathematical and quantum ontology themes, including the nature of consciousness. He is a Hugo Award winner and has also won the John W Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel. Some of his earlier short stories feature strong elements of supernatural horror, while due to his more popular science fiction he is known within the genre for his tendency to deal with complex and highly technical material. Egan is a famously reclusive author when it comes to public appearances, he doesn’t attend science fiction conventions, doesn’t sign books and there are no photos available of him on the web.

Orthogonal

Orthogonal — (2011-2014) Publisher: In Yalda’s universe, light has no universal speed and its creation generates energy. On Yalda’s world, plants make food by emitting their own light into the dark night sky. As a child, Yalda witnesses one of a series of strange meteors, the Hurtlers, that are entering the planetary system at an immense, unprecedented speed. It becomes apparent that her world is in imminent danger – and the task of dealing with the Hurtlers will require knowledge and technology far beyond anything her civilization has yet achieved! Only one solution seems tenable: if a spacecraft can be sent on a journey at sufficiently high speed, its trip will last many generations for those on board, but it will return after just a few years have passed at home. The travelers will have a chance to discover the science their planet urgently needs, and bring it back in time to avert disaster.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviews

The Clockwork Rocket: Hard SF with heart

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The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan

The Clockwork Rocket, which is the first volume in Greg Egan's brand new hard science fiction trilogy ORTHOGONAL, is a book with three different but equally important focal points. On the one hand, it's the story of a young woman who also happens to be a very alien alien. On the other, it's a novel about a planet -- a very alien planet -- on the cusp of tremendous social change. And, maybe most of all, it's a book about a universe with, well, alien laws of physics. Greg Egan successfully weaves these three threads into one fascinating story, but be warned: if you don't like your SF on the hard side, The Clockwork Rocket may be a tough ride for you. Hard as it may be, it's worth sticking with it, though.

The Clockwork Rocket's c... Read More

Quarantine: Cool quantum mechanics, pedestrian plot

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Quarantine by Greg Egan

Greg Egan is an Australian writer of hard science fiction who specializes in mathematics, epistemology, quantum theory, posthumanism, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc. When you pick up one of his books, you know you will be getting a fairly dense crash course in some pretty outlandish scientific and mathematical ideas, with the plot and characters coming second.

The cover blurb advertises Quarantine as “A Novel of Quantum Catastrophe,” and the back describes “an impenetrable gray shield that slid into place around the solar system on the night of November 15, 2034” causing riots and chaos. However, the book mainly takes place in Perth and New Hong Kong, which was relocated to Australia after the Chinese took over. So don’t expec... Read More

Permutation City: A staple of transhumanistic fiction

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Permutation City by Greg Egan

What would you give in exchange for immortality? Greg Egan's unabashed answer to that question in Permutation City is simple: Your humanity. Its sounds cliché, but Permutation City is a book that is able to do what only the best science fiction books can: make you think of questions you never knew you had, and imagine futures that seem ever more possible as time passes.

Around the mid-21st century, mind-uploading technology has been perfected, but its use is still limited to those few who can afford it. Moore's law no longer holds, and computing power is an ever scarcer and costlier commodity, so much so that Copies without the requisite funds to run indefinitely are put on hold until the computing resources become available. Paul... Read More

Distress: Lots of big ideas

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Distress by Greg Egan

The unique talent that is Greg Egan has written another novel that barely strains the limits of modern technology in a near-future socio-political world that is more than believable. Cameras are biologically inserted into humans, rendering reporters as close to the definition of the word “witness” as philologists will permit; pharmaceuticals exist which allow a person to be one button away from a desired mood; and fundamentalists and activists emerge from all corners as science replaces religion in the global mindset. Distress contains enough ideas for three novels; imagination does not seem to be a problem for Greg Egan.

The main idea tackled in Distress is: what if a Theory of Everything were not only possible but just around the corner? What effect would this have on society? In order to examine t... Read More

Dark Integers and Other Stories: Humanism and hard science

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Dark Integers and Other Stories by Greg Egan

Though the count may not be high (five stories all told), Greg Egan’s Dark Integers and Other Stories packs a theoretical punch, quite literally. Novellas and novelettes only, the 2008 collection is filled with the author’s trademark hard science speculation. The selections were published between 1995 and 2007; one pair of stories is set within the same universe as his 2008 novel Incandescence, another pair within a near-future Earth setting, and the fifth is set on a water world. The quality of this collection is contentious, and certainly those who appreciate abstract theorizing will enjoy it the most.

The following is a brief summary of the five pieces:

“Luminous” (1995): In a sho... Read More

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred: An SF spin on the Trolley Problem

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The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan

Subterranean Press is one of my favorite publishers because they’re always putting out distinctive speculative fiction that’s beautifully packaged. I especially appreciate the many novellas they publish because I am often in the mood for shorter works these days and novellas give me the opportunity to read authors whose stories I might not otherwise have time for.

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred (2016) is Greg Egan’s recent science fiction novella about a woman named Anna who directs the spaceport on the asteroid Ceres. Ceres is being inundated with refugees from Vesta, an asteroid habitat that is in political upheaval. When Vesta demands that Ceres stop harboring its fleeing citizens, and then threatens to stop t... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Winter 2014

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The Winter 2014 issue of Subterranean Magazine was edited by guest editor Jonathan Strahan, the editor of a popular year’s best anthology and a number of other anthologies. He has good taste, as the stories chosen for this issue demonstrate — with the exception of the longest and last piece, a snarky bit of irreligious, virtually plotless prose by Bruce Sterling (about which more below).

“The Scrivener” by Eleanor Arnason is structured as a fairy tale often is, with three daughters each setting out on an errand prescribed by their father. This father wants his daughters to be writers of stories, a goal of his own he has never achieved because, he thinks, he lacks the divine spark necessary to such an endeavor. When his daughters are grown, he takes them to a famous critic, who reads their stories, wh... Read More

More science fiction by Greg Egan

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsDiaspora — (1997) Publisher: The boldest and most wildly speculative writer of our time, Greg Egan has envisioned a quantum Brave New World — a masterful saga of a time when not only human life, but fleshly reality itself, will be nothing but a memory… It is the thirtieth century.The “world” has evolved into a vast network of probes, satellites, and servers knitting the solar system into one scape from the outer planets to the sun. Humanity, too, has reconfigured itself. Most people have chosen immortality, joining the polises to become conscious software. Others have opted for disposable, renewable robotic bodies that remain in contact with the physical world. A few holdouts stubbornly remain fleshers struggling to shape an antiquated existence in the muck and jungle of Earth. And then there is the Orphan, a genderless digital being grown from a mind seed. When an unforeseen disaster ravages the fleshers, it awakens the polises to the possibility of their own extinction from bizarre astrophysical processes that seemingly violate fundamental laws of nature. It is up to the Orphan and a group of refugees to find the knowledge that will save them all–a search that will lead them on a quantum adventure to a higher dimension beyond the macrocosmos….Blood Sisters


Blood Sisters — (1998) Publisher: Why waste years designing viruses for biological warfare when blind mutation and natural selection was all that was required? The theory was, they’d set up a few trillion copies of their system. The theory also included 520 people all sticking scrupulously to official procedure, day after day, month after month, without a moment of carelessness, laziness or forgetfulness. Apparently, nobody bothered to compute the probability of that or of finding wonder drugs.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsTeranesia — (1999) Publisher: Prabir Suresh and his younger sister, Madhursee, live in a remote paradise called Teranesia, where their biologist parents are studying an unexplained genetic mutation among the island’s butterflies. Then civil war erupts across Indonesia, shattering their idyllic world and their lives. Twenty years later, Prabir is still plagued by feelings of guilt and an overwhelming responsiblity for his sister, now a biologist herself. Against his advice, Madhurse is returning to Teranesia to solve the mystery of the butterflies and study strange new plant and animal species that have been emerging throughout the region-species seperated from their known cousins by dramatic mutations that seem far too efficient to have arisen by chance. Afraid for her safety, Prabir joins forces with independant scientist Martha Grant to find her. But what he will discover on Teranesia is far more dangerous and wondrous than he can ever fear — or imagine..


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSchild’s Ladder — (2002) Publisher: Twenty thousand years into the future, an experiment in quantum physics has had a catastrophic result, creating an enormous, rapidly expanding vacuum that devours everything it comes in contact with. Now humans must confront this deadly expansion. Tchicaya, aboard a starship trawling the border of the vacuum, has allied himself with the Yielders — those determined to study the vacuum while allowing it to grow unchecked. But when his fiery first love, Mariama, reenters his life on the side of the Preservationists — those working to halt and destroy the vacuum — Tchicaya finds himself struggling with an inner turmoil he has known since childhood. However, in the center of the vacuum, something is developing that neither Tchicaya and the Yielders nor Mariama and the Preservationists could ever have imagined possible: life.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIncandescence — (2008) Publisher: The long-awaited new novel from Greg Egan! Hugo Award-winning author Egan returns to the field with Incandescence, a new novel of hard SF. The Amalgam spans nearly the entire galaxy, and is composed of innumerable beings from a wild variety of races, some human or near it, some entirely other. The one place that they cannot go is the bulge, the bright, hot center of the galaxy. There dwell the Aloof, who for millions of years have deflected any and all attempts to communicate with or visit them. So when Rakesh is offered an opportunity to travel within their sphere, in search of a lost race, he cannot turn it down. Roi is a member of that lost race, which is not only lost to the Amalgam, but lost to itself. In their world, there is but toil, and history and science are luxuries that they can ill afford. Rakesh’s journey will take him across millennia and light years. Roi’s will take her across vistas of learning and discovery just as vast.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsZendegi — (2010) Publisher: In the near future, journalist Martin Seymour travels to Iran to cover the parliamentary elections. Most would-be opposition candidates are disqualified and the election becomes the non-event the world expects. But shortly afterward a compromising image of a government official captured on a mobile phone triggers a revolutionary movement that overthrows the old theocracy. Nasim Golestani, a young Iranian scientist living in exile in the United States, is hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project – which aims to construct a detailed map of the wiring of the human brain – but when government funding for the project is canceled and a chance comes to return to her homeland, she chooses to head back to Iran. Fifteen years after the revolution, Martin is living in Iran with his wife and young son, while Nasim is in charge of the virtual world known as Zendegi, used by millions of people for entertainment and business. When Zendegi comes under threat from powerful competitors, Nasim draws on her old skills, and data from the now-completed Human Connectome Project, to embark on a program to create more lifelike virtual characters and give the company an unbeatable edge. As controversy grows over the nature and rights of these software characters, tragedy strikes Martin’s family. Martin turns to Nasim, seeking a solution that no one else can offer… but Zendegi is about to become a battlefield.


Story collections:

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