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Diaspora Mass Market Paperback – November 3, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 139 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the 30th century, few humans remain on Earth. Most have downloaded themselves into robot bodies or solar-system-spanning virtual realities, escaping death--or so they believe, until the collision of nearby neutron stars threatens life in every form.

Diaspora, written by Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner Greg Egan, transcends millennia and universes in the tradition of Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix Plus, Camille Flammarion's Omega, and Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men. Diaspora is packed with mind-bending ideas extrapolated from cutting-edge cosmology, physics, and consciousness theory to create an astonishing hard-SF novel inhabited by very strange yet always believable characters. Diaspora is why people read SF. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

By the year 2975, humanity has wandered down several widely divergent evolutionary paths. "Flesher" life is that which resides in a basically human body, though genetically engineered mutations have created communication problems throughout the species. In the "polises," meanwhile, disembodied but self-aware artificial intelligences procreate, interact, make art and attempt to solve life's mathematical mysteries. Then there are the "gleisners," which are conscious, flesher-shaped robots run by self-aware software that is linked directly to the physical world through hardware. Throughout, Egan (Distress) follows the progress of Yatima, an orphan spontaneously generated by the non-sentient software of the Konishi polis. Yatima gains self-awareness, meets with Earthly fleshers and, when tragedy strikes, becomes personally involved in the greatest search for species survival ever undertaken. Though the novel often reads like a series of tenuously connected graduate theses and lacks the robust drama and characterizations of good fiction, fans of hard SF that incorporates higher mathematics and provocative hypotheses about future evolution are sure to be fascinated by Egan's speculations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Eos (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061057983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061057984
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Once again, Egan has struck a chord across many disciplines--the non-fiction studies of AI, multidimensional geometry, mathematics, astrophysics, and others are woven into a novel of pure, hard, sf.
Have you ever read a sf book and thought, "That was a great concept... but the author could have gone farther"? You can NOT do that with Egan's work. He explores and pushes back the outer boundaries of the comprehensible with his stories. Diaspora, particularly, spans as far as one can go--at least, as far as its own concept of the future can be pushed.
The book develops from extremely small beginnings--the "womb" of one of Earth's virtual-reality cities called "polises"--where Yatima (the artificial-intelligence protagonist) is born. From there, Yatima grows in a quest for understanding of the world around ver (neuter for "his" or "her"). From ver polis, to the realms of the other lifeforms inhabiting Earth, to the questions of "Who is out there? Who came before us? Why are we HERE?" Yatima struggles and discovers, traveling faster and faster through space (and time). The urgency of the pitch accelerates as ve nears ver goal. Without spoiling the ending, I'll say this: have you ever hiked a "strenuous" trail to reach a peak, and then stood by yourself at the very top and listened to the wind whistle around you? It's amazing how deeply you can look into yourself when you know you're at the pinnacle of experience.
For those who hate Egan's copious (and admittedly rigorous) studies within the text: maybe adapting your style of reading would help.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
First, let me tell you this: Greg Egan is a genius. His ideas are unparalleled by any other science fiction writer I know of. I have read several of his books, and his novels/short stories are the most unique stories I have ever read. Having said that, I have to say he has a bit of a problem with writing long novels and tends to lose focus and drift away. He shines with short stories, though. This book has the same problems. It actually seems like 2 books, really, the first and the second part are so different. The first half of the books tells the story of Yatima, an artificial intelligence being who lives inside a "polis", which is the equivalent of a city of AIs. The story details how Yatima was "born", how did he evolve, and elaborates on his experiences. The background of the story is complex and detailed - yet still remains believable: most of what is left of humanity chose to turn themselves to digital beings, others turned themselves to Gleisners (Robots). But a few chose to remain human, albeit genetically modified humans. This part is *awesome*, *amazing* - it is very, very good! Then, roughly in the middle of the book the story takes a turn: after an unexplained phenomena which occured and wiped the remaining human population, one of the polises decides to go on a "Diaspora", clone itself and explore the galaxy. This part elaborates on the journey. The thing is, there is very very little story, most of it is complicated scientific theories. I'm sure Greg Egan knows his science, from what I understood (I couldn't follow everything), he got it right to the point. But it gets way too complicated. Seriously, I had university courses easier than this part of the book!Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've been looking for a book like this for a long time. Anthropomorphism has always been a pretty pervasive feature of sf-- it makes for better drama, but really bad speculation. For once, the ideas described here aren't restrained by what people find familiar- the aliens aren't simply alternate earth biology, the human societies are actually more then just variances of what you'd read in a history book, the underlying science is as essential to the story as the events of the novel, and the storyline is about intellectual discovery, almost exclusively.

Despite what some reviewers have written, the society the author describes clearly wasn't intended as a dystopia. Whether you see it as such depends on how you define human identity (the author, a programmer, seems to believe that the core of human identity is some sort of mathematically perfect function, and the rest is extraneous extrapolation-- I couldn't disagree more, but my own motivations have nothing to do with tissues and neurons (except as a means to an end), so I personally found the incorporeal society pretty cool). In any case, the idea is both plausible and interesting-- good speculation.

If you read sci-fi for escapism, I wouldn't recommend this book-- it offers little in the way of relatable characters or drama, and the only fantasy it fulfills is that of a physicist or programmer. If, on the other hand, you read sci-fi for interesting ideas and speculation, then this book is a godsend, a breath of fresh air in a stale room.
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