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Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan

Schild's Ladder (2001)

by Greg Egan

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    Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds (AndrewL)
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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Interesting universe, but a bit cerebral as Greg Egan usually is. ( )
  gregandlarry | Nov 29, 2014 |
Greg Egan’s hard SF is so steeped in mathematics, it needs its own sub-genre; Theorem Thriller? MathPunk? This story sets up the dilemma of an ongoing environmental disaster (caused by mathematics) that can only be confronted by the galaxy’s bravest mathematicians, because math. Even so, it’s wildly engrossing, because the stakes are so high, and because the society described has such compelling issues that arrive naturally due to their methods of interstellar transport. Fascinating scenarios arise from digitization of mind and body, then the return to analog flesh. In many other genre pieces, this is portrayed as a consequence-free vehicle for speeding plot advancements. Here, it cleaves societies into ‘travelers’ (those who undergo digitization for the sake of making interstellar journeys) and the planet-bound who stay behind, experiencing the long centuries that the travelers skip. When a child expresses his fear of losing himself and being replaced by some other ‘him’ during a journey, it’s hard to miss the metaphor for conventional estrangement. One doesn’t need light years of distance to make our divergent experiences separate us from those we love- you can’t step in the same stream twice.

The future society Egan paints is a bit too homogeneously enlightened for me, and while there is conflict, it is of a very academic type. All people seem to respect the same wide definition of personhood, and have evacuated entire worlds found to possess native life, no matter how single-celled or primitive. There seems to be no currency or economics, as humanity has entered a post-scarcity era, but the slow-motion drama unfolding with the expanding environmental disaster (The ‘Mimosa’ incident) begins to test this universal civility.

As in other Egan stories, the pace and scale really accelerate in the final chapters, forcing the reader to give up trying to follow the science and just go with the action. The reward is high, however, and the epic scales to these final settings really do amaze. Here, we are taken not to cosmic distances and epochs, but in the exact opposite direction, down to the briefest and tiniest Planck-length vistas. Throughout, I was identifying strongly with the protagonist, Tchicaya, although very little of his thoughts or life is revealed outside of the Mimosa problem at hand. Even considering, I found it difficult to put down, and will look forward to reflecting on Egan’s vision. ( )
  SciFi-Kindle | Jul 27, 2014 |
The math/physics quickly lost me, but I really love Egan's far-future people and their moral dilemmas about what it means to be human. And the evolution of sex/gender makes me happy. Basically fantastic world-building, less fantastic plot, especially toward the end where things get so utterly weird it's hard to relate to anything. But also that's kind of the point, so. Solid Egan book, not my favorite of his but I still desperately want his vision of the future to come true.

The absolute best thing about this book is the eponymous concept: a way to ensure that, as you grow and change, you are still true to yourself. ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
Science fiction (is that what you kids still call it these days?) has a tough time keeping itself out there ahead of where real science is already treading. I suppose that is why fantasy fiction so dominates the market.

Egan posits a far future galaxy where Earth is the sole source of evolved life and where the pace of discovery and knowledge has not slackened one jot from the 20th century. Our knowledge of quantum particles, effects and theory has moved on in a, well, quantum leap. Faced with a cataclysmic quantum event that is slowly swallowing the known universe humanity has split into two factions, big-endian/little-endian style if you ask me, bent on destroying the phenomenon or forcing mankind to adapt and thus re-energize a stagnating culture.

Most of this book was incomprehensible to me, dealing with technical arcana I could not possibly follow and social intercourseI was not sure if I was supposed to gasp at or accept as just another cultural evolution. Perhaps this was the point - putting the reader into a world so advanced that much of what passes as normal is incomprehensible to us.

The characters and their inner worlds are there to guide us through this strange land, but in this case I found none of them attractive, none of them really worthy of support and none of them that I cared about at all, let alone enough.

Maybe this book is for the hard-core genre reader rather than the casual dipper like me, but I found myself glad not to live in that universe and have to read books like this about it. ( )
  pierthinker | Jul 21, 2012 |
Brilliant, just brilliant.............................very original, stimulating, well-written........................loved it! ( )
  malcrf | Jan 13, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006107344X, Paperback)

Greg Egan became the hottest new science-fiction author of the 1990s and won the Hugo and John W. Campbell Memorial awards by extrapolating cutting-edge quantum physics and consciousness theory to create rigorous and radical new visions of the posthuman future. Schild's Ladder affirms Mr. Egan's place, with Olaf Stapledon and Poul Anderson, among the giants of cosmic-scale SF.

In Schild's Ladder, humanity has transcended both death and Earth, and discovered its home world is nearly unique as a cradle of life. As it spreads throughout the galaxy, humanity enjoys an almost utopian existence--until a scientist accidentally creates an impenetrable, steadily expanding vacuum that devours star systems and threatens the entire universe with destruction.

Tchicaya is a Yielder, member of the faction that believes this "novo-vacuum" deserves study. The opposing Preservationists--among them Mariama, his first love--seek to save worlds and destroy the novo-vacuum. Discord heats to terrorist violence; then enmities and alliances are turned upside-down by a discovery that may mean the novo-vacuum is, instead, a new and very different universe--and one which may contain life. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:34 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"For twenty thousand years, every observable phenomenon in the universe has been successfully explained by the Sarumpaet Rules." "Now Cass has stumbled on a set of quantum graphs that might comprise the fundamental particles of an entirely different kind of physics, and she has travelled three hundred and seventy light-years to Mimosa Station, a remote experimental facility, in the hope of bringing this tantalising alternative to life. The 'novo-vacuum' is predicted to begin decaying the instant it's created, but even a short-lived, microscopic speck could shed light on the origins of the universe." "Cass's experiment turns out to be wildly successful: the novo-vacuum is more stable than the ordinary vacuum around it, and a region on which the new physics holds sway proceeds to expand out from Mimosa at half the speed of light." "Six hundred years later, more than two thousand inhabited systems have been lost to the novo-vacuum. On board the Rindler, people have come from throughout inhabited space to study the phenomenon. Most are Preservationists, hunting for a way to turn back the tide, but a few belong to another faction, the Yielders, who believe that the challenge of adapting to survive on the far side of the border would reinvigorate a civilisation that has grown stale and insular." "Tchicaya has come to the Rindler as a Yielder, but when Mariama, a childhood friend who inspired him to abandon his own home world and traditions for a life of travel, arrives soon after, he is shocked to discover that she wants to destroy the novo-vacuum." "As a theoretical breakthrough reveals the true richness of the world behind the border, tensions between the opposing factions grow. Then a splinter group responds with violent, unilateral action, and Tchicaya and Mariama are forced into an uneasy alliance, travelling together through the border, balancing old and new loyalties against the fate of two incomparably different universes."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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