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Permutation City Mass Market Paperback – August 25, 1995
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A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at beyond the speed of light. The beacons are built to be robust. They never fail. At least, they aren't supposed to. Learn more
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Some of the extrapolation is fairly straightforward, for example the idea that humans will have themselves "scanned" and instantiated within a computer as Copies to achieve immortality, and the first to do this will be the elderly and the fatally ill. Egan goes several orders beyond the straightforward, and hits on some big questions: If I get moved into a computer, is it still "me"? Should sentient software be considered legally human? If I am a program running in a computer and I edit my memories and my most basic desires, have I become a new person? If I halt a Copy's program and archive their data indefinitely, have I "killed" the Copy? What would it be like to be forced to live forever within a computer, with no ability to commit suicide ("bail out")? If these are interesting philosophical questions today, they will become much more tangible over the coming decades as (or if, depending on your view) AI develops.
Now, a few caveats. A book that seriously considers AI must, I think, include the possibility of super-human AI as well. And Egan, like most authors, doesn't address this possibility. For example, in Permutation City there is an unexplained 17x slowdown of Copies relative to real time.Read more ›
Permutation City is the only fiction book I keep in my reference section. As an SF fan since age seven, and a member of the first generation to grow up with computers, it takes an awful lot to give me a sense of future shock. Out of the thousands of SF books I've read, this is one of exactly two books that bowled me completely over. It's like sticking your brain in a high-voltage electrical socket. Read it or else.
Another reviewer of a different Egan book said it was like a detective story where the main character is sneaking into a building to get clues and sees a bit of paper and goes into the history of paper production since its inception and what it will be like in the future. The information is irrelevant to the story and actually detracts rather than enhances.
Despite this however, I was really glad to get past this and into the 2nd half of the book. Egan gives a feeling of what true immortality might be like and what real loneliness is. I don't know if he intended to, but that's what I took away from this book. With a new type of virtual processor tucked away into its own little universe, untouchable by anyone, the virtual people can live forever, not just until the end of our universe, but really and truely forever. I've never seen it explored before, and find it a great idea. Even someone scared of death must be a little hesitant about the offer of true immortality, not just no aging, not just outliving your friends, but outliving everything in the universe. Billions and billions of years. Forever is a long time and I found it a bit daunting.
Another idea that I really liked in the book was concerning loneliness. What's it like to be really alone. Well, some of the characters find this out as they sneak into the artificial universe created for other characters, but they can never interact with it. No one can ever see them or talk to them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I simply could not put this book down. I hadn't read fiction in many years and stumbled upon this by accident. What a fascinating accident indeed.Published 4 days ago by Anthony Lee
When Egan explores a concept, he wrings it dry. In this story he analyzes the nature of existence and the boundless range of mechanisms that could underly any reality. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Michael Mcginnis
One of my favorite books in the rare and wonderful category of computer science fiction. Explores ontology, posthumanism, identity, metacognition, mathy concepts--a STEMophile's... Read morePublished 1 month ago by M. Weaver
Another book of interesting ideas by Greg Egan. I love how he develops bizarre possibilities into fully formed and compelling futures. This one was a pure page-turner for me.Published 1 month ago by Agitprop
This story took a bit of discipline to complete; however, it was pretty much worth the journey. I did have issues with the pacing of the book and certain aspects of its... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Keogh
Serious science, extreme artificial intelligence aimed at thinking readers. Not for those who want a space opera or an adrenaline jolt. Read morePublished 5 months ago by William E. Ferreira
I wanted to love it. And to be sure it has fantastic ideas, but as a pure story its not five stars. Read morePublished 5 months ago by R. Jordan Greenhall
Mind bending and thought provoking. One of the best high-concept sci-fi books I've read. After you finish it's worth investigating the math/physics concepts that underpin the ideas... Read morePublished 7 months ago by M. Doll
I honestly think this is the most imaginative science fiction novel I have ever read. Mr. Egan always does aim high; sometimes his vision exceeds his reach, but not in this book. Read morePublished 7 months ago by D. R. Crawford