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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly imaginative, but the ending is flawed
Set in the mid 21st century, this sci-fi novel, like Egan's later novel Diaspora, ties together many fascinating scientific and metaphysical ideas in a single book (The emphasis is very definitely on the "sci"). However, unlike Diaspora, there is a strong central theme underlying the story, a baffling idea called the "Dust theory". Any attempt to...
Published on 22 April 2000 by Neil Fitzgerald

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3.0 out of 5 stars More philosophy than story
I found this to be more a philosophical investigation of virtual reality than a story that exposes concepts. Anyone who has already read many stories of virtual reality will find a number of familiar ideas here - not that it's a copycat book, but you can only do so much with a given theme. What this book does is to explore the area in quite some detail. If you're...
Published on 14 July 2012 by Nick


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly imaginative, but the ending is flawed, 22 April 2000
By 
Neil Fitzgerald "sdhkbsdalhthoclhnjkhowh" (asdhajklwehrjkhijhlks;ahng) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
Set in the mid 21st century, this sci-fi novel, like Egan's later novel Diaspora, ties together many fascinating scientific and metaphysical ideas in a single book (The emphasis is very definitely on the "sci"). However, unlike Diaspora, there is a strong central theme underlying the story, a baffling idea called the "Dust theory". Any attempt to describe that theory here would be pointless, but I can say that it compels the reader to ponder some fundamental questions about the nature of reality. The theory is completely absurd yet not all that easy to refute. It has certainly caused me a few headaches... The dust theory is motivated and explained via another key theme in both this book and Diaspora - the concept of having a human "download" his mind onto a computer. Aside from the suspension of disbelief required in order to accept that such a thing is possible, Egan presents us with a well-thought-out and plausible scenario regarding these downloaded humans or "copies".
There are several other themes, of lesser importance, but fascinating in their own right, notably the "Autoverse": A piece of software that allows you to have complete control over your own virtual mini-universe - a world capable of modelling objects as complex as bacteria, down to the level of individual atoms.
Well that's the sci part. The human story behind all this doesn't have much intrinsic interest - the characters are vehicles for the ideas, and often one gets the impression that it is Egan who is speaking, not the character (they all seem to be uncannily good at making detached, intelligent comments on whatever is happening). This aspect didn't really bother me, as I think the ideas deserved some detached, intelligent commentary anyway.
The biggest flaw, I found, was the contrived ending. I won't go into details here, but needless to say, the dust theory turns out to be correct (in the story, at least). Once this is established, the author needs some kind of crisis with which to sustain the reader's interest, and it is this crisis, and the circumstances that brought it about, that I found to be rather contrived.
All in all though, I would definitely recommend Permutation City to any fan of "hard" sci-fi, or anyone interested in metaphysics or the philosophy of mind.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 10 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
In the twenty first century it has become possible to noninvasively scan a human brain and implement the resulting data on a computer: Copies of human beings are alive and well in virtual reality.
Few science fiction writers can run as far with the implications as Greg Egan. Copies are just the premise, and before long we are in much deeper waters as one man begins to question the fundamental nature of reality. It's a magnificent exploration of the true implications of computationalism. If you feel the same when you're scanned and run on a supercomputer, would it feel the same to be run on a billion abacus over a billion years? To be accidentally implemented by the random shuffling of atoms across countless universes? Go read it and feel your mind boggle.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous, inspiring and magical, 15 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
I read this book in 1994. It still crops up daily in my mind. What would you do if your soul was offered immortality? Would you accept the offer? If not, why? And if you do, how would you spend the rest of eternity? There are passages in the book that I find I live my life by. I don't want to give the plot away - but if you are at all interested in the riddle of where the border between external and internal reality lies you will enjoy this book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, read it and then think., 29 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
This book introduces the concept of running 'Copies' of people on computers on the very 1st page. But it is about so much more than Artificial Inteligence. Greg Egan explores concepts of existance and consciousness that I never knew existed.
This is just a SF book, but it has still changed my perspective of the world.
Read it and then think.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning - and even better the second time you read it, 29 May 2010
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
This is not just sci-fi. It's a philosophical masterpiece.

If the following terms mean something to you, then you will absolutely love this book. If not, you should Google each of them, then read this book as quickly as possible. You will never think the same way again.

Cellular automata (Conway's Game of Life or "Wolfram NKS")
Turing test
Universal computer
Solipsism
Relativity
Quantum suicide

MMcA
"I exist because I exist." (You'll get it, trust me...)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars !!!Concept Vertigo!!!, 11 Jan. 2010
By 
numpty (Great britain) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
Firstly; watch out for plot spoiler reviews!!
(it's not a mystery tour if you know where your heading)

Egan's work is 'Hard' Sci-Fi of the highest order. I give him the edge over Brian Aldis (my other favorite), as concepts are heavier and plots driven by 'rawer' science at a blistering pace.

His breadth of vision astounds; always extrapolating logically to the n'th degree. A modicum of effort may be required from the reader at times; but one is richly rewarded with a sense of awe, discovery and achievement. Each book is a Grand Odyssey.

Hold tight and don't look down, because he'll take you a long, long way from where you started....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 18 Sept. 2008
By 
Zoe (BOLTON, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
I first read this book in the mid '90s and it has stuck with me ever since. As a vision of the future it is breathtaking; as a depiction of what could happen to someone who has achieved immortality in a world where everything they desire can be theirs in an instant, it is terrifying. Greg Egan paints a world that is both wonderful and horrific at the same time. It is a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, 25 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
In this book Greg Egan packages together a series of interesting thought experiments with a gripping narrative. This is a hard sci-fi treatment of the themes of personhood and consciousness, set in a world in which "mind-uploading" is commonplace and the creation of "copies" that live on after physical human death creates legal and ethical dilemmas for humanity.

The book actually took me back to the kind of insights that David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality" provided, but apart from that I also found myself engaged with the book as a work of fiction, following various characters as they become involved with the protagonist Paul Durham's arcane experiments into the limits of the world that Egan envisions.

The book's only serious flaw is that the female characters are wholly unfeminine and quite unsympathetic too. I don't get the impression that this is a plot point so much as a mere failure by Egan to capture female psychology in his writing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars More philosophy than story, 14 July 2012
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This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
I found this to be more a philosophical investigation of virtual reality than a story that exposes concepts. Anyone who has already read many stories of virtual reality will find a number of familiar ideas here - not that it's a copycat book, but you can only do so much with a given theme. What this book does is to explore the area in quite some detail. If you're interested in the theme in its own right, you're likely to enjoy this, but, as a philosophical investigation there are large gobs of narrator exposition, rather than telling a story. If you want a good story, this isn't the book for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Permutation City : Science Faction, 13 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Permutation City (Paperback)
Permutation City provides challenges at every opportunity. You endure emotions for people who no longer exist,never did exist and those who are more unsure of their existence than I was of the science that supposedly made them exist.
It is worth understanding the science of Permutation City. It is the science of today not the future.
If teachers could instill the desire to learn and understand physics & chemistry like Egan does, fast food would dissappear as no-one would be un-edjucated enough to need to work the tills.
Read it!!
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Permutation City
Permutation City by Greg Egan (Paperback - 7 Feb. 2008)
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