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Axiomatic Paperback – December, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

Axiomatic is a collection of Greg Egan's short stories that appeared in various science fiction magazines (mostly Interzone and Asimov's) between 1989 and 1992. Like most of Egan's work, the stories focus on science and ideas, sometimes at the expense of the writing. But although Egan may lack a certain stylistic flare, he more than makes up for it with his wonderful visions of the future. Some of the more interesting stories include "Into Darkness," the tale of a rescue worker whose territory is a runaway wormhole, and the title story "Axiomatic," which is about a man looking to find meaning in the senseless death of his wife.

From the Back Cover

From junkies who drink at the time-stream to love affairs in time-reversed galaxies; from gene-altered dolphins that converse only in limericks to the program that allows you to design your own child; from the brain implants called axiomatics to the strange attractors that spin off new religions, Greg Egan's future is frighteningly close to our own present.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Prism (December 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061052655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061052651
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a science fiction writer and computer programmer. You can find information, illustrations and interactive applets that supplement my books at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Kindall on June 10, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Utterly fascinating and mind-blowing. So much so, that halfway through it, I felt in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer force of new ideas and had to stop to let what I'd already read sink in. If you read a story in this collection and it *doesn't* blow your mind, you are experiencing cognitive saturation and should take a short break to allow your mind to return to something resembling its normal size and shape before continuing -- that is, if you want the full effect. It's quite interesting picking out the themes and tropes Egan is most fond of exploring -- even more fun if you've read his longer work, since some of the ideas in his novels can be found here in their distilled essence. The only thing I found somewhat wearying is his constant use of first-person narration, which isn't a problem in small doses (and is actually quite engaging much of the time), but which by repeated use gives the unintentional impression that most of Egan's protagonists have very similar personalities, or are even, impossibly and insupportably, in some way the same person, a vaguely disorienting effect that causes the stories to blur together in the reader's memory. This is unfortunate because the stories are well worth recalling as distinct entities.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Smith on November 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read Ted Chiang's _Stories of Your Life_ and found it incredible (I'd have to count two-thirds of the collection as being among the best short fiction I've ever read in any genre), so naturally I checked around for other people's comments, and about 5 or 6 people who liked Chiang's stuff led me to this book (a couple of them recommending this book OVER the Chiang collection).

Having just finished reading it, I can only say I feel a bit numb and let-down. Sure, some (but nowhere near all) of the ideas are fascinating, but the storytelling leaves much to be desired. Conceptually, I suppose it's above-average science fiction fare, but in terms of the execution, pretty much everything is run-of-the-mill SF. Nearly all of the stories could be given a one-paragraph "wouldn't it be cool if..." treatment, and not be much worse off for it. The pacing is disappointing (sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow), the characters are like cardboard (which is disastrous in stories that are primarily first-person), and Egan even allows some of the ideas, however brilliant, to fizzle out ("The Moat" is the most extreme example of this).

There are three or four gems here ("Learning To Be Me" comes to mind), but for people looking for moving or cleverly-plotted stories, I would have to recommend looking elsewhere. Nonetheless, for hard SF enthusiasts, this is a decent collection, so long as you're not looking for style to go with the substance.

Edit (9/7/2013): I just realized I wrote this almost eight years ago. Here's the thing though, while at the time I was looking for another Ted Chiang (a tough order indeed!), many of the ideas in these stories, including the core idea in "The Moat", which I poo-poohed a bit above, have stuck with me ever since.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Tillman VINE VOICE on December 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm slow reading Axiomatic, I guess, because I put it on my "to read"
list back in 1995, when the Commonwealth edition was published,
and missed the US release.

Better late than never -- it's a terrific collection, a must-read for
short-story and Egan fans. And I do mean *short* -- the longest story
here is 28 pages, and the average length is 16. All were first published
in 1990-92, when Egan was making his reputation. If you read the
Dozois Year's Best, you've seen "The Caress", in which a leopard-
woman chimera is created by a millionaire with way too much time
on his hands, to "realize"the eponymous, & famous, 1896 Belgian
Symbolist painting -- Egan's harried policeman-protagonist is drafted
to play the male caressor. This was his sixth(!)-published story, and it
has many of his trademarks: more good ideas than most novels, an
understated future-Australia setting, clean, transparent prose and a
helluva story.

Well -- I could rattle on about individual stories, but in my usual
slothful fashion I'll refer you to others who've already done so --
personally, I don't find 2-3 line summaries of short stories to be
helpful (but YMMV). What I *can* say is, you'll find all of the
virtues of Egan's novels here, and few of the faults. There's really
not a weak story in the bunch. You can sample the excellent
scientific-romance "Closer", and "The Moral Virologist", a rather
loathsome Tiptree-inspired ("Last Flight of Dr. Ahn"/ "Screwfly
Solution") piece (plus some later stories) at Egan's website. Check them out!

Happy reading!
Peter D. Tillman
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John T. O'Donnell on April 12, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm writing this review not having read the book for a long time, but it grows in my estimation with time, and I often think about the stories. They are classic examples of "Hard SF," but have the perfection of logical puzzles or chess problems. They seem to spring from abstract speculations about physics, biology, or philosphy, but are turned into affecting and involving vignettes and characters that often leave you stunned and moved. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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