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Diaspora by Greg Egan
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Diaspora (original 1997; edition 1999)

by Greg Egan

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1,210299,540 (3.97)22
Member:TheCriticalTimes
Title:Diaspora
Authors:Greg Egan
Info:Eos (1999), Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
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Diaspora by Greg Egan (Author) (1997)

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
"Diaspora" by Greg Egan (1997) is of mixed quality. The novel was written to fit around a short story that Egan published earlier, "Wang's Carpets." That short story appears as Chapter 11.

From the start of the book through the end of Chapter 6 (Parts 1 and 2), Diaspora offers some of the best science fiction I've read. It is chock full of fascinating ideas, the plot is engaging and exciting, and you care deeply about the characters.

Chapter 11, "Wang's Carpets," is another bright, high point in the novel.

Unfortunately, these high-quality sections only make up about a third of the novel. The remaining chapters are of much lower quality, and that quality gradually diminishes further as the end of the novel approaches. The important characters become less and less relateable, and Egan spends too much time philosophizing over fictional mathematics and physics. The last third of the book is a wild goose chase, whose ultimate conclusion is deeply unsatisfying and more than faintly ridiculous. I was left feeling cheated, as though Egan demonstrated his tremendous ideas and ability, then strung me along, promising more and failing to deliver.

It is difficult to assign a star rating to a book with both excellent and disappointing segments. I ultimately decided to award four stars, which I consider a generous rating for a book that was one-third excellent, one-third mediocre, and one-third poor.

If you wish to experience the good parts of Diaspora, you are in luck: Parts 1 and 2 (chapters 1 through 6) stand on their own as a self-contained story. You can read these chapters and then stop. Or, if you prefer, you can read from chapter 1 through chapter 11, which will cover all of the book's high points while avoiding the worst parts, which come near the end. If you proceed all the way through, you will find that nuggets of value become increasingly scarce, lost in a seemingly five-dimensional scape of bland text.

If you are interested in Diaspora, consider "Blindsight" by Peter Watts, a story that has a similar style but is strong from beginning to end. ( )
  jrissman | Aug 1, 2018 |
hard sci-fi at its finest ( )
  bookwormelf | Mar 22, 2018 |


My memories of when I used to subscribe to the science fiction magazine Interzone in the 80s and 90s are largely of two types of stories. The magazine had a penchant for a brand of rather gloomy anti-cyberpunk futurism (especially in the 80s, with Britain under Thatcher's iron heel when everything looked bleak, and era which also gave rise to such wonderfully dark comics as V for Vendetta and Crisis) of a sort that made Jeff Noon's books look positively utopian (I'm sure Noon must have had stories in IZ, come to think of it, but I can't remember any). The second sort were dazzlingly high-concept explorations of the interface between technology and society, and where ever hastening scientific and technological progress might be taking us as a species.

This is where I first came into contact with Australian author Greg Egan, an Interzone regular and prime purveyor of this latter type of story. Egan's 1997 novel Diaspora is a superb example of his work. It starts toward the end of the 30th century when humanity has split into different strains – as software entities living rapid yet immortal lives in virtual reality, or interacting with the physical world inhabiting robotic bodies, or a few 'fleshers', humans who doggedly remain attached to their biological reality. An unforeseen astrophysical disaster causes some of the digital personalities to send out copies of themselves to explore the universe in search of somewhere safe from potential annihilation from cosmic accidents.

This is not just an updating of Stapledon's [b:Last and First Men|2749148|Last and First Men|Olaf Stapledon|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1267242376s/2749148.jpg|1631490] or Wells' [b:The Time Machine|2493|The Time Machine|H.G. Wells|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1285304288s/2493.jpg|3234863] to the information age, where biological evolution continues seamlessly into electronic, but an exploration of what it means to be human, to be conscious, to be intelligent. Is the only way to be human to remain in direct contact with the physical world and live a life measured in decades, or can a piece of software that is at least as complex and possessed of its own drives and personality and autonomy, that wants to survive and learn and has morals and ethics be also considered human? As the environments in which humans live are artificial anyway, is living in an entirely virtual world any less valid?

Along with a story that presents these issues, Egan takes us into areas of multi-dimensional maths and wormhole physics that stretch the readers' minds just as much, all told with a clarity and skill that makes Egan one of the finest and most important writers working in SF today.

Read this if you like [a:Neal Stephenson|545|Neal Stephenson|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1192826259p2/545.jpg] and [a:Charles Stross|8794|Charles Stross|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1218218373p2/8794.jpg]. Other books on a similar theme include Stross' [b:Saturn's Children|2278387|Saturn's Children|Charles Stross|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1266693988s/2278387.jpg|2284499] and the wonderful [b:Natural History|735504|Natural History|Justina Robson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1298634251s/735504.jpg|1125408] by [a:Justina Robson|224518|Justina Robson|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-F-50x66.jpg] (both of whom are from Leeds, which is an interesting coincidence). ( )
  Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
Egan as always taking some SFnal idea to its extreme conclusion. In this case, the future of humanity when most people are either uploaded consciousnesses or new consciousnesses created digitally from the beginning. Told as a sequence of linearly connected tales, in full Stapledonian Last and First Men / Star Maker mode. Sadly, like its inspirational models, as a story it leaves much to be desired. The opening chapter, with the birth of a new consciousness, is the most abstract and hardest read. Things improve after that, with a very good chapter involving the fate of the remaining "fleshers" on Earth when colliding neutron stars in the galactic neighborhood send a wave of fatal radiation. But, for me, that was the high point of the book, and later chapters were little more than plot advancement. ( )
1 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Oct 24, 2016 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13409100
  Lunapilot | Jul 19, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Egan, GregAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brambilla, FrancoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gudynas, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martinière, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061057983, Mass Market Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In the 30th century, Earth is dying and the world's three separate intelligences unite to search for a new home. One intelligence is the regular flesh and blood, another is android and the third is bodiless software. The hero is Yatima, an android who leads an exploration party, and on the voyage he meets new civilizations.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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