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The Eternal Flame: Orthogonal Book Two [Kindle Edition]

Greg Egan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The generation ship the 'Peerless' is suffering from a population explosion, and the only way to reduce the number of children is by drastically limiting the females' food intake. So population control consists of two barbaric choices: starvation, or suicide.

Trying to find a better way, a biologist starts experimenting with animals, and stumbles on a technique that radically alters the reproductive cycle. But while the advantages are obvious, there's a major drawback: while it spares women from their old role - reproduction without hope of survival - it will essentially wipe out an entire sex.

Amid the turmoil created by this new possibility, physicists on the ship are working to develop the technology they will need to complete the mission of the 'Peerless'. One of the expedition's founders dreamed of discovering the Eternal Flame: a way to generate thrust without consuming any fuel at all.

The inhabitants on board the 'Peerless' have some hard choices to make - and the wrong one could spell extinction for their entire race!

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Book Description

Classis hard SF from a master. The generation ship the 'Peerless' is running out of space, and fuel -- and prospects for survival ...

From the Back Cover

The generation ship Peerless has set out on a mission to discover the technology needed to save its home world from annihilation. But the Peerless is facing urgent problems of its own. It does not carry enough fuel to return home, so without a new form of propulsion the explorers will remain stranded in space.

A population explosion has stretched the ship's life support capacity to its limits, and the biology of the travellers offers only the harshest way to prevent further growth: subjecting the women to famine conditions in a drastic attempt to limit the number of children they bear.

When the astronomer Tamara discovers the Object - a massive meteor just within reach- hopes rise that there might finally be a solution to the fuel crisis. As an expedition is organised to explore the Object, a biologist struggles to devise a better way to control fertility, while his partner stumbles on a strange phenomenon that challenges everything she thought she knew about light.

As the three scientists clash with the leaders of the Peerless and the traditions and prejudices of their society, they find themselves swept up in two equally dangerous revolutions: one in their understanding of matter and energy, the other in the radically different roles imposed by their species on women and men. Either change may destroy the ship - together, they might save their world.

The Eternal Flame is the second volume of the Orthogonal trilogy, continuing the story of the Peerless that began with The Clockwork Rocket.

'Clockwork Rocket is the perfect sf novel' Liviu Suciu, Fantasy Book Critic

"[A] hugely ambitious novel ... full of interesting characters with real desires, hopes and flaws, while the plot is multi-layered, complex and gripping." Patrick Mahon,

[Cover of Clockwork Rocket]

Orthogonal Book 1

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1380 KB
  • Print Length: 398 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0575105720
  • Publisher: Gollancz (18 Oct. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008K5T1TS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • : Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #167,108 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Greg Egan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He has won the John W. Campbell award for Best Novel and has been short listed for the Hugo three times.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science as story 23 Dec. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This has been a hard review to write. "The Eternal Flame" is a very particular type of book, less a story than an extended physics lecture - the physics in question being different from that of our own universe, but perfectly consistent and worked out in great detail by Egan. In places it reads like Feynman Lectures on Physics restated as a Socratic dialogue. I have a physics degree and found sections pretty tough going. There isn't a lot of plot, and the characters are fairly rudimentary. Even more than the preceding volume, The Clockwork Rocket, science is the central character in this book. Given that, it is especially hard to give a start rating to. If you like this kind of stuff, you'll probably think it should be four or five stars. If you don't, you probably won't gte more than few pages in and I suspect you'd be inclined to give it one or two stars.

That may put you off. I wouldn't blame you if it did. But if you are happy to follow Carla and her colleagues as they argue the physics, developing, before your eyes, their universe's equivalent of quantum theory, and begin to apply it, creating analogues of devices like lasers, you may find it more worthwhile. For me, it was like eavesdropping on Bohr, Dirac, Einstein and, yes, Feynman. And there's more. The "Peerless", the generation ship upon which Carla lives and works, is dedicated to science, launched to develop the technologies that can save her species' world from annihilation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Continuation 12 Sept. 2012
Those who have read my review of part one The Clockwork Rocket (Orthogonal) of this series will already know that I like Greg Egans work.
This continuation of the story takes the physics of the orthogonal universe to delightful, surprising, and consistent new levels. Empathising with the characters involved in this process of discovery makes the book a very enjoyable read. The challenges and opportunities faced by the individuals and the society are so well interwoven with the science that it is difficult to pause reading for long enough to give some of the more complex ideas the contemplation time they deserve.
I expect I will read it a few times and find as much pleasure in appreciating the richness and depth of Egans latest creation as I have with his other work.
Thank you Mr. Egan.
Five stars. Again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars True Universe Creation 3 Dec. 2012
By Richard
Well, it is Greg Egan right? Surely just about the best modern proponent of taking current scientific cutting edge thought and extrapolating it to the limit. Almost always coupled with intriguing storyline, believable characters, and utterly engrossing well paced narrative. He is served well by his short story experience in this. In many ways he, better than anyone else, has deserved the accolation of "creating universes" with novels such as Diaspora even though most recently he was exploring near future trends and politics in Zendegi.

With the Orthogonal books however he really has taken "Creating Universes" to a whole new level.

- Here we have an entirely new universe with different physics laws and constants. This includes most prominently the physical law that the speed of light is variable across the spectrum.

- Then we have the utterly different but utterly believable alien species with very different (and only incrementally explained across the books) reproductive processes. Perhaps to counter the wealth of novelty and difference he errs a little in making the characters overly empathetic but their actions, power struggles, jealousies and preoccupations are entirely derived and explicable from their surroundings, events, their biology and the physics they live with.

- A third main theme and ingredient to the mix is an imminent apocalyptic event revealed to be caused by the effects of space time curvature and the universe bending back upon itself in essence turning matter into antimatter via this and bringing it together (yes that is somewhat complicated).

Taken together we have the ingredients of a fantastic and incredible adventure.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Momentum maintained 19 Dec. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This sequel maintains the momentum of the "Orthogonal" series. We are now a few generations on from the original book, and Greg Egan gives us a mixture of adventure, theoretical physics and discoveries in other areas. He generates a pervasive sense of tension, as a need to limit population growth among creatures who normally give birth by having the female split into four leads to females having to starve themselves to hold off from giving birth. How various characters try to overcome this provides one of the novel's sub-plots, along with the discovery of the Orthogonal Universe's analogue to quantum wave mechanics.

Greg Egan has put a lot of thought into developing the Orthogonal Universe, and this book has certainly included several significant plot developments. I withheld a fifth star because so much of the book is made up of conversations where different scientists try to persuade their colleagues of their new ideas - these sections would probably be of interest to physicists, but rather hold up the story.

So I'd recommend this book, with mild reservations, to anyone interested in real science fiction. with challenging ideas intersecting with thrills and drama.
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