Book Review: “Diaspora” by Greg Egan

Diaspora by Greg Egan

 Night Shade is rereleasing several of Egan’s works from the nineties, including Distress and Diaspora (1998). The amazing thing is how well they hold up, especially the info tech which has certainly developed a lot since he wrote the novel. If there is one major anachronism in Disapora, it is that the virtual worlds strongly resemble Second Life, which seems really dated today.

Diaspora is a detailed fictional account of the digital rapture, with people uploading to both robots (the gleisners) and digital worlds (the array of ˆpolisˆ environments). He adds in a whole bunch of more-or-less serious multiverse theory, which gives him a lot of room to work with!

The “Diaspora” in question becomes a trek out of the Milky Way to avoid a sterilizing blast from a giant gamma ray burst. The only exit that can be reached in time is “up” to another universe (six dimensional, if I understood correctly). This leads to yet another universe, and, indeed, infinite universes.

Egan makes a valiant attempt to actually describe the conscious experience of these uploaded minds, and also what it would be like to visit six dimensional and other very strange universes. This is not easy to do.

Unfortunately, I had trouble following it. There is way, way more abstract geometry here than really fits in a novel, and the descriptions of the uploaded minds are difficult to understand. It is also impossible to really grok the motivations of the essentially supernatural beings, so the plot is obscure in many places.

This is a very geeky book, that has received praise from Math professors but will be hard going for many mortals.


 

  1. Greg Egan, Diaspora, New York, Night Shade, 1998.

 

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