Awesome! I don’t think there’s better hard sci-fi out there these days.
This is hard to even review. There are several plots. They are not interwoven, happening sequentially over a few centuries, but they are all good. There are two main plots–the end of organic life, and the end of the universe. Both, it would seem, are bothersome, but not insurmountable. Like in Permutation City, there’s also a sizable amount of talking about the question of solipsism in computed life.
Egan’s stuff is asking the kinds of questions that various singularity people haven’t even gotten to. What’s it mean to have parents when you’re created from nothing? If you’re being computed, does the world outside that computer have meaning at all? Is it feasible to believe the universe is habitable for intelligent life?
It’s still not as much fun to read as some other sci-fi writers. The characters are uninteresting to the point that I eventually stopped even trying to figure out which ones did what. ‘Somebody did this thing’, the book eventually says. But I mean, just how emotional would a spontaneously generated computer program supposed to be? Could we ever meaningfully get along? Not really.
Anyways, good stuff.