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Permutation City by Greg Egan

Permutation City

by Greg Egan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Subjective Cosmology Cycle (Book 2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,397288,191 (3.9)24
Recently added byprivate library, niallh, starlight17, jamieandbrian, book.nug, Bink42, alikhtarov, goobergunch
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    jekier: Heavily features mind uploading.

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» See also 24 mentions

English (24)  Hungarian (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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 |
Dull metaphysical nonsense. Also, 70% could have been axed. ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
[This was also published at my website, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography.]

There's a running joke throughout Greg Egan's 1994 Permutation City that neatly encapsulates both all the good things and all the bad things about the book in general. Namely, a TV show has recently been created in their day-after-tomorrow world that was specifically designed to sell the just-invented concept of virtual reality to the mouth-breathing masses, a show that's been deliberately dumbed down to make it more palpable to the slack-jawed yokels, in which crazy fantastical things are always happening within a virtual space that doesn't even begin to conform to reality, which for anyone familiar with this period in sci-fi history is very, very clearly Egan poking fun of the other cyberpunk novels of those early-'90s years that got a lot more famous than his, like William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. But in the actual virtual reality that all the smart, rich people in Egan's universe actually do inhabit, the ultimate goal is for the virtual world to match the boring real world as exactly as possible, and the most excited anyone ever gets is when their avatars count out loud from one to ten to check the lag between their time and our own. (Or to quote The Simpsons: "Perfectly level flying is the supreme challenge of the scale model pilot!")

That says everything you need to know about about Egan as an author, a "hard" science-fiction writer who is also a working mathematics doctorate holder in his day job, and who has built an award-winning and cultishly popular career writing speculative novels that stick as closely to real science as humanly possible. I think that's great, I want there to be no mistake, and I'm glad that these kinds of books exist for all those science-oriented readers who get frustrated by the "soft" sci-fi books that tend to be the big bestsellers of the genre and have much more of an impact on the general culture. (If you ever want to cause an aneurysm in a hard sci-fi fan, ask them for their opinion on Star Wars.) But that said, hard sci-fi is generally not really my cup of tea -- in fact, I doubt I would've ever read this unless it had been recommended by a new friend of mine in Chicago, fellow hard sci-fi author Jeremy John -- and as a result I found Permutation City to be only a bit above mediocre, with a central premise revolving around quantum mechanics and multidimensional consciousness that might as well have been freaking Hogwarts, as little as I could keep up with the high-level real science being bandied about.

Unfortunately for hard sci-fi authors, most of us are never going to consider it a thrilling climax when a group of scientists flip a switch, stare at some dots on a computer screen, perform some calculations, then excitedly declare, "It worked! It worked!," which is why hard sci-fi is fated to always exist on the cultish outskirts of genre literature. And despite his publisher's best efforts to "sex up" this story, through the cyberpunk-looking cover art and a tagline that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual plot ("Ten Million People On A Chip!"), Permutation City falls squarely into hard sci-fi territory, making it easy to see why his "dumbed-down" '90s colleagues like Gibson and Stephenson are now well-loved mainstream figures while Egan is still barely known beyond his core fan base of Larry-Niven-loving convention veterans. It should all be kept in mind before picking up a copy yourself. ( )
3 vote jasonpettus | Aug 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (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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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.
"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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006105481X, Mass Market Paperback)

The good news is that you have just awakened into Eternal Life. You are going to live forever. Immortality is a reality. A medical miracle? Not exactly.

The bad news is that you are a scrap of electronic code. The world you see around you, the you that is seeing it, has been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. You are a Copy that knows it is a copy.

The good news is that there is a way out. By law, every Copy has the option of terminating itself, and waking up to normal flesh-and-blood life again. The bail-out is on the utilities menu. You pull it down...

The bad news is that it doesn't work. Someone has blocked the bail-out option. And you know who did it. You did. The other you. The real you. The one that wants to keep you here forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:20 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

What happens when your digital self overpowers your physical self? A life in Permutation City is unlike any life to which you're accustomed. You have Eternal Life, the power to live forever. Immortality is a real thing, just not the thing you'd expect. Life is just electronic code. You have been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. A Copy of a Copy. For Paul Durham, he keeps making Copies of himself, but the issue is that his Copies keep changing their minds and shutting themselves down. You also have Maria Deluca, who is nothing but an Autoverse addict. She spends every waking minute with the cellular automaton known as the Autoverse, a world that lives by the mathematical "laws of physics." Paul makes Maria an offer to design and drop a seed into the Autoverse that will allow her to indulge in her obsession. There is, however, one catch: you can no longer terminate, bail out, and remove yourself. You will never be your normal flesh-and-blood life again. The question then becomes: Is this what she really wants? Is this what we really want? From the brilliant mind of Greg Egan, Permutation City, first published in 1994, comes a world of wonder that makes you ask if you are you, or is the Copy of you the real you?… (more)

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