- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; paperback / softback edition (15 May 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575081635
- ISBN-13: 978-0575081635
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.4 x 23.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,496,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Incandescence Paperback – 15 May 2008
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Egan is perhaps the most exciting SF writer at work today. (Andrew McKie THE DAILY TELEGRAPH)
One of the very best progenitors of hard science fiction out there...Egan explores the very essence of what it is to be human, the very nature of what and who we are and how we relate, or don't, to one another. Expansive, engaging and thoroughly thought-provoking stuff. Science fiction at its most powerful and profound. (Alasdair Morton SCI FI NOW)
"[A] curious combination of cool rationality and philosophical adventure. Egan has been working these veins since 'Dust', 'Permutation City' and 'Diaspora' and his hand has not lost its cunning nor his mind its passion." (Russell Letson LOCUS)
"This is science fiction on a massive scale and with Egan being one of the genre's top ideas men, there's no shortage of invention or brain-spinning concepts. For any fans of hard SF, this is genuinely unmissable." (SFX)
With Incandescence Egan's imagination continues to dazzle and distil the sense of wonder that makes SF such a joy. If you like your SF real hard then you'll simply love this one: it's as solid as the genre gets. (CONCATENATION)
...a clever and original scientific mystery, and the evocation of a couple of very unusual and fascinating cultures. It's been too long since the last Egan novel. Hopefully the next gap won't be nearly as great. (DONDAMMASSA.COM)
Egan's ideas - notably people travelling the galaxy as data - are frequently fascinating. (Dave Golder BBC FOCUS)
"Greg Egan has no equal in the field of hard SF novels. His themes are cosmic with galactic civilizations and plots spanning millennia. Compelling throughout, [Incandescence] contrasts some fascinating moral quandaries of knowing decadence with the mind-expanding discoveries of isolated peasants and eventually blends its narrative threads in a surprising twist." (Tony Lee STARBURST)
In his hard science fiction novels, Greg Egan isn't afraid to tackle high concepts, and as the afterword to Incandescence shows, he has drawn inspiration from the most up to date scientific thinking. (DREAMWATCH)
Sheer exuberance of invention. The way Egan writes it, the Amalgem feels like the only possible future, and the future looks just fine from here. (INTERZONE Jim Steel)
The master of hard SF returns with a riveting tale of hope and discoverySee all Product description
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I admire all the Egan works I have read. He undertands story making and physics to which he makes plausible extensions. To my mind Permutation City is Egan's most conceptually challenging and enjoyable work. Incandescence has challenges of its own but is rooted in more conventional physics. To get the best out of it one needs some understanding of gravity because much of the work is taken up with the intriguing question of how beings could deduce their surroundings from within an enclosed orbiting body. Of course, being Egan, a strange place is being orbitted. I strongly recommend this novel
The novel comprises two ultimately related stories, one follows two members of the Amalgam as they journey deep into the territory of the Aloof who control the hub of the galaxy and who passively resist any attempt by the Amalgam to be understood. The other story follows that of a group of aliens living in the Splinter surrounded by the Incandescence.
It's this second story where the real problem lies. Too much of it is taken up with one character explaining physical theories and of them conducting experiments, and that dominates that portion of the novel. It's okay as far as it goes, but both parts of the novel are very thin on characterisation or just plain story.
However some of the old Egan magic is here, and he offers some nice hints on the nature of the Aloof at the end of the book while cleverly avoiding the mistake of actually revealing their exact nature.
In summary, disapointing, but Greg Egan at half power is still better than many writers at their best.
Recommended, but I didn't feel as if this was as good as Diaspora. It kind of peters out and the connection you think is going to be made at the end between the two threads never is.
I also found the orbital mechanics exposition hard to follow with the daft names for directions and la know diagrams.
And no, I don't carry a pen and notebook with me when reading a book from my phone on the train Mr Egan.
The first two parts, the two fictional ones, concern two parallel journeys. The first, and the most accessible, is by a post-human from a decadent galaxy-spanning multi-species civilisation of the far future. While he is on a journey and quest for knowledge he is ultimately rather a shallow creature - both shallow as a person but also rather shallowly drawn by the author. This is unfortunate, because I get the impression that a lot of readers will be completely lost by the second (and third) parts, find this one accessible but unfulfilling, and so rate both the book and its author poorly. I can't really blame them for this, but they are most definitely wrong.
The second is by a thoroughly alien scientist from a much more primitive culture - one that is pre-technological even. She is something of a Leonardo, who, along with those colleagues that she recruits to the cause of Science!, discover Newtonian mechanics, calculus and even general relativity. Given the circumstances in which Egan has placed her race, I find this to be only a little far-fetched. This second journey is by far the more interesting, at least for someone with the requisite educational background. Unfortunately if you lack that background then it will be impenetrable and dull. It requires a thorough grounding in Newton's theories of motion and gravitation, and at least some in general relativity. Good luck finding that in yer average reader, Mr. Author! Good luck even finding the latter in yer average sci-fi reader!
The third part that I identified is entirely contained within the second, but as well as being fine (if technically demanding) fiction, it would, with only a little editorial tweaking (mostly the translating of the names of the directions from cutesy sci-fi alien lingo and chopping out some text about our aliens' society that serves to make them into people) make an excellent tutorial for A-level physics students.
I recommend this book, but with the caveat that I only recommend it for those who understand general relativity.
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