Incandescence

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incandescence.jpg

Greg Egan

GENRES:
Hard Sci-Fi

SUMMARY:
Using large time spans, big shifts in perspective and carefully orchestrated sequences, Greg Egan tells the story of two life forms unravelling personal, societal and universal mysteries.

Spurred by boredom and the tangential goading of a third species, two interlopers enter a forbidden zone of their galaxy to follow a faint trail of clues hinting at a lost race. Meanwhile, the residents of The Splinter, a world of tunnels and bright light, strive to map the nature of their home from first principles.

RESPONSE:
The technological innovations set in place to allow characters to transmit themselves around Egan’s universe, communicate between species and create the tools they need from dust are impressive sci-fi machinery but it is the experiments performed by the inhabitants of The Splinter, leading them to Newton’s and then Einstein’s understanding of the universe, that give this book hard science credibility. That this was achieved with a compelling narrative and characters the reader comes to care about (particularly Zak and Roi) makes this an excellent read.

I found the results of some of the experiments difficult to interpret but a website featuring demonstrations helpful to kinesthetic learners has been established.

POINT BLANK:
Ambitious and unique hard science fiction


Reviewed by Worldslaziestbusker

Definitely hard sci-fi but worth the effort!

I didn't find Incandescence easy to read... Greg Egan makes no pretense of taking his readers by the hand as he teaches them principles of physics and maths. He just thrusts them into verbal descriptions of increasingly complex experiments and calculations. To be honest, I didn't fully digest certain parts, as I find it very difficult to grasp spatial concepts with only descriptive text. The website Matt recommends above is quite good for people like me!

Having said all that, Egan does have a very unique and engaging way of illustrating these principles, and he wraps them up in a pretty cool story. Although I would have preferred a more direct intersection of the two alternating storylines, the different time and spatial scales between the stories provoked some good thought about intellectual progress and social evolution.

There's books I've enjoyed reading far more than Egan's, but for some reason both books I've read by him (Diaspora and Incandescence) really have stuck with me and made me think- perhaps because I had to think so much while reading them to just get a basic understanding!