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Showing 1-10 of 14 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on January 25, 2002
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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on January 5, 2000
What a delight to find this gem in a pile of used paperbacks we inherited! This is one of the best works I've come across exploring the nature of consiousness, reality, and immortality. (What, exactly does it mean for something to be 'REAL' anyway?) This is a futuristic work of fiction is set in a time when people can actually inhabit computers. A virtual reality simulation of consiousness might be more accurate. This book is spellbinding and thought-provoking. If they ever do invent such computers -- I want in! Don't worry about somebody telling you the ending -- you have to read the entire journey for it to have any meaning anyway. And what a journey it is! Throughout the book I was constantly wondering 'what in the world is going to happen next?' in very much the same sense as in WATERSHIP DOWN. The introduction is interesting and the pace picks up from there and never slows down. There is only one short scene which might jostle the squeamish and it doesn't impact the story line at all. As befits a book about immortality I was still hungry for more when I finished it but the book wraps up nicely and leaves one with a lot to ponder. I highly recommend this book.
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on July 1, 1998
Listen to me I've got an english degree... and I've read a lot of science fiction. I wasted my youth reading all the classics... H G Wells, Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert, Dick, Burrough, Ballard...and all that cyber-stuff too - I've read practically their entire output... I've watched all the films, read all the comics, played about with computers pointlessly... ...and this...
...this... absolutely the best science fiction book I've ever read. Egan is the supreme science fiction writer living today, if not of the century. Permutation City goes BEYOND itself, beyond the known - it's a trip, man! Egan's other books - Axiomatic, Quarantine, Distress, Diaspora - are also worthy of superfluous praise such as this. In Permutation City he has given back science fiction its philosophical edge - lost in the rest of cyberpunk where we find just second hand images, stylised characters/dialogue/events, and a pretence at intellectual validity. Plus he's a virtuoso stylist, writing in bare, beautiful language...
it's great!
just read it.
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on September 4, 1996
Greg Egan has been described as one of the great ideas men of modern fiction. And that he is.

Having followed Greg's progress from the sale of "The Moral Virologist" to a small fan magazine in Australia, to his now international best sellers, it amazes me that Greg's writing just keeps on getting better, more complex, and certainly more full of ideas.

Like the shorts "The Moral Virologist" and "White Chistmas," Permutation City is a very complex story, detailing in hard, realistic terms an all-too-possible future where medical computing blurs the edges of life and death. (Greg specializes in medical and biological computing systems himself, and it shows in much of his work.)

Thankfully, hard-tech edge to Greg's writing does not diminish the narration of the story. He manages to blend in technical issues as smoothly as he does the philosophical and legal ramifications.

At the heart of Permutation City, Greg is exploring the nature of existence itself. Does the fact that a mathematical model, encapsulating a universal concept, make such a universe a reality? If the nature of our universe based purely upon computable laws, why not others? This is an old theme in literature, but Greg breaths new life into it, partly by showing just how soon this issue will become a real concern for society.

I eagerly await new stories by Greg Egen and have put him on my list of authors to watch. Once you read Permutation City (or better still, grab a copy of his short stories) you will also be hooked
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on September 22, 1997
Diamond-hard science fiction has to be the most difficult form of literature in the world. If you had asked me to list three subjects on which it would be impossible to write hard SF, the fundamental nature of reality would have been #2. Forget the Hugo and Nebula; this book deserves a Nobel Prize. "Permutation City" is the only truly perfect hard SF book which I have ever read, and I've been reading Niven and Pournelle since age nine.

Permutation City is the only fiction book I keep in my reference section. As an SF fan since age seven, and a member of the first generation to grow up with computers, it takes an awful lot to give me a sense of future shock. Out of the thousands of SF books I've read, this is one of exactly two books that bowled me completely over. It's like sticking your brain in a high-voltage electrical socket. Read it or else.
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on May 22, 1996
When I read the jacket blurb, I thought, "Ho-hum. Another VR
story by some hack who doesn't know jack about computers." But I did
read it, and months later, I was still noticing things I had missed
when I read it.

"Permutation City" has two major strong points: Egan
understands computers (he's a part-time programmer), and it shows: I'm
a system administrator and part-time programmer myself, and the story
just sounds plausible throughout. Secondly, Egan explores all of the
ramifications of his assumptions, and the book is filled with "Wow, I
hadn't thought about that" moments.

Nominally, this novel is about a man who offers people a
chance at immortality by simulating them on a computer.
On another level, it's about fear of dying, and what constitutes
the self.
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on September 24, 1997
Greg Egan is an ideas man par excellance! If the first few pages don't scare you, you haven't cranked up your sense of wonder anywhere *near* enough.
The premise is fascinating; the super-rich can take virtual copies of themselves into cyberspace and still influence the real world. Us mere mortals cannot afford the supercomputer power needed...or is there another way?
Greg is best in short stories and needs a while to tie his plot together; the wait is well worth it. His work is at least as good for the nineties as Asimov's for the fifties, Niven's for the seventies or Brin's for the eighties; I haven't come across anyone better in his genre. Enjoy!
Also highly recommended: Axiomatic - surely one of the best speculative collections ever.
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on April 7, 1999
Best SciFi around, right now.
This book and author richly deserve the praise that it has been given. It takes on a new level of significance (as do most the author's other major SciFi works) when the ideas within them are pursued. For example, perform web searches on the topics: "Information mechanics", "Edward Fredkin" "Digital Physics", "Quantum Information Theory", "Information Theory" and other combinations of these terms. You will find a wealth of interesting web pages confirming that the ideas in this book are the subject of ongoing research. When considered alongside the ideas in the author's book "Diaspora" and the writings of Hans Moravec the possibilities are endless.
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on February 26, 1997
Immortality, the nature of conciousness, the nature of reality, and more. This book is hard science fiction at its very best. I cannot think of another book to rival this one in terms of pure intellectual stimulation. Egan takes a few simple ideas and runs with them as well as anyone writing today. The writing is wonderful, the characters are interesting, but oh! the ideas, the ideas are grand! This book took me forever to read; so many times I would read a paragraph then stare into space and think about the ramifications and possibillities. This book should appeal to anyone with an interest in physics, artificial intelligence, and philosophy, or anyone who enjoys thinking about about what it means to be, especially what it means to be YOU
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on August 20, 1999
The best science fiction isn't about science, it uses actual or potential developments in science in order to examine ourselves.
Greg Egan's writing is among 'the best science fiction'. This book might appeal to techies who are just interested in the computer technology, but what it is really asking, like many of Egan's stories, is 'what does it mean to be human?'. He doesn't answer the question (how could he?), but he gives the reader more than enough to think about.
Greg Egan's work is so far beyond the work of most dull mainstream (mostly US) SF authors, it is just ludicrous. Drop your Orson Scott Card, your Larry Niven - all your triumpahalist military SF garbage - and pick up Egan. You might learn something.
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