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Permutation City

by Greg Egan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Subjective Cosmology Cycle (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,510308,304 (3.91)24
The story of a man with a vision - immortality : for those who can afford it is found in cyberspace. Permutation city is the tale of a man with a vision - how to create immortality - and how that vision becomes something way beyond his control. Encompassing the lives and struggles of an artificial life junkie desperate to save her dying mother, a billionaire banker scarred by a terrible crime, the lovers for whom, in their timeless virtual world, love is not enough - and much more - Permutation city is filled with the sense of wonder.… (more)
  1. 30
    Accelerando by Charles Stross (amayzes)
  2. 10
    Axiomatic by Greg Egan (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Heavily features mind uploading.
  3. 00
    Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling (szarka)
  4. 00
    Today We Choose Faces by Roger Zelazny (szarka)
  5. 00
    Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (jekier)
    jekier: Heavily features mind uploading.
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» See also 24 mentions

English (26)  Hungarian (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
What starts and ends as a basic search for immortality as data, as in uploading perfect copies of yourself to cheat death indefinitely, makes this 1994 novel a rather focused utopian novel. Not that things are all rosy, of course, but that it's the search for utopia, or heaven on earth, that drives the characters here.

Distinctions get very hazy between real and real. When the universe is math and math is the universe, a perfect copy as data will have no real difference with everything we have. Change some basic laws, add new elements, ramp up your perceptions or slow them way down. It doesn't really matter. Create a universe that is self-evolving, have it compete with itself and all the parts within it, run a simulation of Life, and turn Darwinism and Game Theory upon data elements.

It's smart. It's evolution in data. And when you can live thousands of years working out all the kinks in your programming in a few eyeblinks in that boring other reality, why not go all the way and live forever for real, speeding up and slowing down within the actual universe, give yourself robot waldos, meet new neighbors... or aliens... and generally play god?

We're already the running software platform in our own universe, after all. Matter doesn't really exist anyway. We're running on an encoded holographic universe. This novel just flips the concept in a mirror and spells out what we might need to do to survive.

Sure, we've seen this concept done many times now, but look at the date here. It's ALSO been done before, but few have gone as far or all out as Greg Egan. The denizens of Permutation City seem to be doing it right.

Yes, there's a good story and good characters, too, but in its heart, this is definitely a utopian novel. :)

I really miss those. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Fascinating but flawed. The first half is like a Derek Parfit thought experiment, and pursued with the same relentless striving for rigour. But I guess Egan eventually found himself tied up in knots he couldn't unravel, because the story becomes less and less plausible -- even on its own terms -- from around halfway.

The final major plot point makes very little sense, and feels more suited to the fuzzy magic-realist sci-fi subgenre than to the diamond-hard intellectual exploration Egan seemed originally to be striving for. Even before this, key questions about Durham's experiments and his 'dust theory' (I'll avoid spoilers, but this is basically the linchpin of the main plot) go unanswered, and largely unasked by the characters, for no satisfying reason.

On a separate note, there's a grim subplot about a murderer's guilt, self-inflicted torment and eventual ambiguous catharsis, which probably sounds quite interesting but isn't; or at least I found it too shallow and undeveloped to make the nasty bits seem other than gratuitous.

Still, this is a unique, thought-provoking book -- and really quite exciting, if only because I know that Egan has written many others, and I can't help fantasising about the one that fulfils the promise of Permutation City.

A note on the prose: when I read the first few pages several years ago, I quickly gave up after deciding that it was just too clunky, in that all-too-familiar sci-fi way. But I'm not really sure why (aside from one or two slightly awkward moments early on), because on this reading it was fine. ( )
  matt_ar | Dec 6, 2019 |
It isn't as if there were no other reviews, and normally, I don't review anything that has a bunch of reviews already. I'm just poleaxed by the book, and the ending. I almost started reading it again, but stopped after the first few pages. Life is short, and there are other books. I'll still return to this, sometime down the road, just for the pleasure of reading it, all over again.

It's excellent, and believable. ( )
1 vote Lyndatrue | Oct 2, 2018 |
3.5 stars, weird one. Greg continues to play with the rules of perception and what perceiving a thing implies, only this time we go on a trippy trip to parallel universe central, launching of parallel universes as we go, dropping through thousands of years and more, and "failing" (in one universe, and what's one universe) in the end because the aliens we created have a more solid and cohesive perception of reality than we do. I just felt the whole time that Greg made all the rules fairly arbitrarily and could change them whatever way he wanted at any time. Which may have been due to me not understanding the premise deeply enough (and is a feeling shared by Maria, one of the two protagonists, at least). ( )
  _rixx_ | Aug 30, 2018 |
4.5-5 ( )
  Bibli0mane | Aug 22, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greg Eganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kotrle, PetrTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kulyk, MehauCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Into a mute crypt, I

Can't pity our time

Turn amity poetic

Ciao, tiny trumpet!

Manic piety tutor

Tame purity tonic

Up, meiotic tyrant!

I taint my top cure

To it, my true panic

Put at my nice riot

To trace impunity

I tempt an outcry, I

Pin my taut erotic

Art to epic mutiny

Can't you permit it

To cite my apt ruin?

My true icon: tap it

Copy time, turn it; a

Rite to cut my pain

Atomic putty? Rien!

Found in the memory of a discarded notepad in the Common Room of the Psychiatric Ward, Blacktown Hospital, June 6, 2045.
Dedication
"Thanks to Deborah Beale, Charon Wood, Peter Robinson, David Pringle, Lee Montgomerie, Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams"
First words
Paul Durham opened his eyes, blinking at the room's unexpected brightness, then lazily reached out to place one hand in a patch of sunlight at the edge of the bed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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