This novel is full of fascinating consequences of post-corporeal humanity, and rigorously pushes ideas to extremes that few authors are willing to extend. For that reason, it can become daunting at moments for some as distances stretch into cosmic scales and time is examined and experienced at epochal durations. An unprecedented and unexplained disaster drives the software descendants of extinct humanity to seek reassurance and safety from any future re-occurrence to lengths unforeseen and wondrous. Within the first few pages, Egan outlines a feasible process for ‘psychogenesis’, the creation of digital sapience in a manner parallel to Nature’s own analog method, setting the tone for both the direction the novel will go, and how deliberately the author will take us there. Like Egan’s other work, there is a profound appreciation for the discipline and history of mathematics, and quite a few of the pages here are given over to outlining the fictitious discovery...
As other reviewers have noted, this book is full of fascinating ideas. Is the "information dump" to which reviewer Jim Mann refers a bit much at times? Perhaps. Is the story at times slightly contrived around an idea? Probably(I'd say the best example of this is the end of the story, which gets a bit repetitive and seems to perhaps only be there to showcase the idea that there are infinite dimensions).
But, flaws aside, here is why I cannot give this book less than 5 stars: The fascinating ideas are REALLY FASCINATING.
If you want a glimpse of well fleshed out future societies (many of which which seem quite plausible, assuming that science eventually allows "uploading"), including their philosophies surrounding what life is, what the purpose of life is, how one interacts with those who choose different paths (or different physical forms), and what it might mean to live as a digital entity (and even to never have known anything else), you have to...
Highly recommend reading this book on an e-reader or while taking notes if reading analog, since constant cross-referencing is required to keep track of events, terms, situational info, characters. There is lucidity and fluidity in characters, which seems to makes sense given trillions or more years the novel spans. However, each life is still a trajectory with goals, so I'm thinking stories, narratives, still exist in space. Enjoyed preach of pacifism and ecological (?) restraint, space travel often synonymous with conquest, 'bad' aliens.
Enjoyed the richer descriptive first half of the book, seems to fall away in the last quarter (entropy?). Nevertheless prefer that to a grand scale finale.
Highly recommended reading.
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