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Permutation City [Hardcover]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Boggling Jan. 25 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'd have to rate this book as one of my all-time favorite SF books. I still freak out a bit if I think too hard about his dust hypothesis.
The best thing about this book is that I read it soon after I had read "The Minds I", a collection of essays about AI and human consciousnes. I suspect that Egan has read the same book, since many of the concepts of Permutation City are based on the thought experiements in The Minds I. This is not to say that Egan's book is not original, as the title suggests, the book is a riff or fugue on a number of concepts related to identity and consciousness.
Most of his wild extrapolations follow perfect logic if you accept the basic premise that a conscious software entity can be created. The idea that, if such an entity exists, maintaining the software state while shutting down the program, then restarting it later from the same state would be experienced by the entity as instantaneous, then following that a succession of these saved states in any chronological order should be perceived as the same experience is mind bending.
Amazon should bundle Permutation City and The Mind's I (and maybe Goedel, Escher, Bach) -- they make a great matched set.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
The concept of mind uploading has been a common theme in fiction and science fiction for years. The concept of personality transferal and immortality has captivated mankind for centuries.
Egan takes these themes and combines them artifical reality.
A play on Descartian themes and the question of "what really is reality?"
The end result of Permutation City is a internal world outside of our reality. A world that exists purely in digital form. How does this world exist in regard to ours? Can a world like that have another world inside it? Without its own concept of "our" reality, could it therefore understand/ comprehend our reality? Can we in the same vein comprehend another reality outside our own?
It raises further questions on the nature of artifical electronic intelligence- Whilst people may exist in this electronic form, would shutting down their world be murder? Do they really exist? Do they really have free will? Is their future predetermined?
At points this novel has a little to much detail, however it is an excellant story.
A book that, if read deeply, has a surprising trail of deep dualistic and philosophical issues and questions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Seemingly endless details, but still good... Dec 4 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Permutation City is a notable cyberpunk novel by Greg Egan, which is worth giving a try if you fancy this genre of literature. Here we have a story about a young man, Paul Durham, who uploads the contents of his brain to a computer. In doing so, he seemingly acquires the gift of immortality, which is granted so long as he carries on the rest of his life in this virtual world created for him. That's not such a bad deal to begin with, but it doesn't take long for him to experience the tremendous sense of isolation and uselessness. In the VR, Paul is simply a spectator of the world around him and every glitch in the construct serves as a violent reminder that he is no longer flesh and blood.
I must warn you that Egan goes to great extent to provide the reader with plenty of meticulous details that add to the realism and plausibility of the storyline. Early in the story, I think it's fantastic because it does so much to paint a vivid picture for the reader. However, there are plenty of times when it does weigh down the story. For example, Egan beat Maria's experiment with mutose to death by explaining the actual chemistry involved, which I found unnecessary. It seemed to me like Egan was more or less showing off how learned he is in different subjects. This is definitely a novel you must read slowly if you plan on getting the most from it. Yet, I still found myself tempted to put it down at times because I was overwhelmed with too much detail.
On the other hand, I did love the underlying human issues presented in the story. The entire plot toys with the philosophical quandary of personal identity. If everything in the VR is not truly real, then can the copy of Paul be considered human? Or is he just another jumble of computer code simulating a human?
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3.0 out of 5 stars issues to think about Dec 4 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Greg Egan's Permutation City is a novel centered around computer "copies" of human beings. Egan takes these characters on quite an interesting journey. The characters in this book are brought face-to-face with their own possible immortality. When a person is scanned, their very being becomes a type of computer program, which can simply run multiple copies of the same person on the computer. I was honestly frightened to read about the sad potential one has in living forever. While life extension is something our society is constantly striving for, I am bothered to read about these characters, who repeatedly "wake up" into a new round of the same old life. Each time another copy is created, the copy wakes up to the same life as that of the original and all of the copies combined. Even though each copy is a "new creation", there is no new life - it is like a recycled life. This process can be used over and over again. One of the main characters (Paul Durham) lives for over 7,000 years! It seems to me that it would be more like a never-ending nightmare than a dream come true!
In the actual storyline of the book, the main character (Paul Durham) makes a copy of himself, but removes the emergency "bail-out" option, which is required by law to provide the copy with the choice of becoming a flesh-and-blood person. The copy (Paul) works against his original in attempt to free himself from his "trapped" computer existence.
Unfortunately, for readers who are new to or not very familiar with the fast paced cyberpunk style, this book is rather confusing. The line between virtual reality and flesh-and-blood is quite thin. However, if you are able to keep up with what is real and what isn't, you may be able to enjoy and appreciate Greg Egan's Permutation City. I cannot say that I enjoyed the book as a whole, but I do believe that a shorter, simplified version would be slightly more appealing to readers like me, who are not "hard" cyberpunk fans.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly Good
This is perhaps the finest work of Computer Science based Science Fiction ever written. The most stunning thing here is that Greg Egan actually knows what he's talking about, and... Read more
Published on May 7 2002 by Justin
5.0 out of 5 stars Egan's cusp book
One of his last books that maintains some accessibility and entertainment value to balance off his increasingly abstract theses. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2002 by Gordon Rios
4.0 out of 5 stars Are you sure this is reality?
An excelent book. What would happen if you could be downloaded to a mainframe? And if your virtual self creates a virtual world that in time creates self consciounness?. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2002 by Juan Mikalef
1.0 out of 5 stars fascinating subject matter in a boring book.
The author has managed to make a fascinating subject somehow seem boring and predictable. At least that is what I thought of the characters and plot of this book. Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2001 by richard gibble
5.0 out of 5 stars Upload your Mind!
Mobius Dick writes songs about mind uploading, but not many people have successfully written books about it. Egan has, and this one is excellent. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2000 by Glenn H. Reynolds
3.0 out of 5 stars Permutation City
Greg Egan must have an incredible amount of intelligence when it comes to technology. Either that, or he has a masterful imagination. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2000 by "tdwave"
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended look at brain sims and artificial life
Greg Egan is one of the most inventive and exciting current SF writers. His SF is distinctly "hard", rife with "cutting edge" speculations, and also generally... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2000 by Richard R. Horton
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much technical detail, too little plot
There are a lot of interesting ideas in this book, but unfortunately none are fully developed. There is very little plot and the characters, who were difficult to tell apart, are... Read more
Published on July 24 2000 by sbtier
3.0 out of 5 stars I AM STILL MIDWAY...
I haven't really finished the book & I find it very tempting to simply give up, close the pages & stuff the book in my shelf. Read more
Published on July 2 2000 by "juj"
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