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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 5 August 2015
Thought provoking, good if you like books with different ways of looking at the world.
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on 2 April 2002
After a slightly disappointing venture into biology with Teranesia, Egan is back to his favoured territory of fundamental physics -- and back on form -- with Schild's ladder.
Taking as his starting point an experiment-gone-all-too-right, he creates, in effect, the story of a new-born universe with its own radically different physics. Expanding at half the speed of light, it spreads out across our own universe, devouring everything in its path. Against it he pits two competing groups of researchers, one trying to halt its progress, the other trying to destroy it.
This provides the backdrop for the classic Egan combination -- human emotions and mind-bending physics playing out an epic story for the highest stakes. The themes are familiar from Egan's other novels and short stories -- a threat to humanity's very existence, an impenetrable boundary, an epic journey into a vividly realised alternate universe -- but more boldly executed than before.
This will probably be viewed by many as Egan's best novel. I don't think it is -- it's just that the physics is harder in this one. The feat is superficially more impressive but ultimately it lacks some of the depth of Diaspora.
As ever with Egan, it's a good read and hard to put down. And it's packed with more new ideas than some SF writers manage in a career. But it has some flaws. The characterisation is less complete than in some of his other books and there are a few annoying flaws: his exotic physics, once you get inside it, is slightly less exotic than it might be; and in scenes where his characters venture outside their spaceship he doesn't seem to account for relativity -- despite the fact that the barrier is moving at half light speed.
But it's still a decent read, and one I'd recommend if you like your science hard but tempered with a little humanity.
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on 26 February 2002
After the fairly human-scale Teranesia, Greg Egan is back to his usual stomping grounds - mind-blowing physics.
The idea of a more stable vacuum than the one making up much of our universe has been around for a while. Egan takes this idea, mixes it with his other (seemingly) favourite topic - humans as software able to move between bodies or inhabit virtual environments - and comes up with a truly stunning story.
I always look forward to a new Egan book, and I've yet to be disappointed.
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on 15 May 2002
This is an excellent book. Egan manages to sustain a gripping and surprising plot without a single identifiable villain; instead we have sympathetic characters with opposing views on how to deal with the threat of the novo-vacuum. Yes, there ARE characters - they're just different to the standard SF stand-ins. Egan's prose is as efficient and polished as ever, and there are some lovely images. The science is at times formidable - this particular full-time scientist struggled with the "big idea" behing the quantum nature of the novo-vacuum, despite reading countless books on QM and Theories of Everything. But it doesn't really matter; the basic flow of the story carries the reader on anyway. In short, this has the mind-blowing ideas of Diaspora, but they're harnessed to a proper plot, and the characters are as engaging as those in Teranesia. Jolly good!
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on 11 February 2015
Greg is an interesting writer, pulling in imaginary physics a step ahead of the physics we know. (Or the physics which are known, which isn't aways the same thing.) It can cause things to become a little dense at times, but for a fan of hard SF those parts can be joyous.

The only downside is that the human sides of his stories can be a little unsatisfying - as is the case here. He makes a good go of it, but it feels like there's just something lacking.

Apart from that, a great romp with some incredible ideas.
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on 17 November 2016
Some wonderful ideas and a reasonble story. One of the easier books of Greg's to read. A good one to start with.
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on 11 January 2010
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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on 4 June 2016
For fans of Loop Quantum Gravity
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on 19 July 2002
If you love SF based on *hard* science then this might be the book for you. There is a *lot* of physics in this book. I personally found the physics hard to follow; it got in the way of an otherwise interesting story. There was some character development - but I felt that this was hindered by the emphasis on the physics.
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on 3 June 2008
I've long been a fan of Greg Egan because of his ability to mix hard scientific speculation with credible personalities and motivations.
In this book the balance has been lost and the science has become rampant and taken over, and it just doesn't work.
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