Most helpful critical review
issues to think about
on December 4, 2000
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.