Diaspora – Greg Egan

Like a lot of science fiction, the prologue makes no sense until you’ve read almost the entire book. Neither do a lot of the first four or five chapters. They’re hard to read because of the vocabulary used to describe a future civilization based almost entirely inside multiple supercomputers, lived by software simulations of human personalities.

But once I got used to “ve”, “vis” and “ver”, and the overarching conceit (based, according to the endnotes, on a lot of current theory) I found an adventure story that took in an exploration of the ways to be human, or at least a descendent of humans as we know ourselves now. Throw in some multi-dimensional maths and particle physics that I can just about think about thinking about, and it’s a mind-expanding feast of concepts that is beautiful to immerse yourself in.

Sometimes the book as a whole seems slightly non-sequitur, but the whole thing is written with a light touch (“everything is understandable”) and with a complete self-consistently, so it doesn’t really matter so much. It’s also written with a terseness that makes it hard to summarise – as I tried to on a couple of occasions – without actually reciting the whole chapter.

It’s really marvellous, and I think my brain has actually expanded from reading it.

See also:

Pandora’s Star – Peter F. Hamilton. For another exploration of alternate, computer-enhanced humanity and how other life might exist. You’ll probably feel the need to read the sequel, but it’s not as good.

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