Diaspora

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diaspora.jpg

Greg Egan

GENRES:
Hard Sci-Fi

SUMMARY:
Diaspora follows the development of a conscious unit of software, Yatima, occupying run time in the network of mainframes (called polises) into which much of human civilisation has migrated by the end of the third millennium.

The book is broken into chapters that cover the initial development of Yatima from a seed of code, Yatima’s education, the end of organic life on Earth due to a cosmological incident, attempts by the citizens of one polis to develop wormhole short cuts across the universe, the physical dispersal of clones of that polis and their discoveries among the stars, culminating in journeys into other universes.

RESPONSE:
It takes me a long time to read Greg Egan’s novels because I have to put them down and think hard about each paragraph. This isn’t a bad thing, because it gives my experience of his writing a poorly scaled but pleasing temporal parallel to the massive time scales the stories cover.

The physics the author employs to drive parts of the story are beyond me, but spur me to read more about what physicists have been up to for the last century. Greg Egan acknowledges that some features of the worm hole ideas and the cosmological incident that spurred the diaspora of the book’s title were speculative, but I don’t know enough to see the border between what is currently known, what would have to be discovered, and what would need to be discarded to make the story possible. I’m a kinaesthetic learner, so the descriptions, as good as I’m sure they were, left me floundering in the wormhole chapter.

As with Incandescence, Greg Egan has created characters removed from anything I could hope to experience and still managed to make me care about them.

For me, the outstanding part of the book was the first chapter, in which Yatima is created. Based on Daniel Dennet and Marvin Minsky’s models of human cognition, the iterations of Yatima and the information that accumulates to the moment ve reaches self awareness enthralled me because my son was going through equivalent, but slower, revelatory developments at the time.

POINT BLANK:
This book is a fantastic effort of imagination and writing prowess.


Reviewed by Worldslaziestbusker

Makes me want to reread this one

I read Diaspora several years ago and have forgotten most of the details. But the expansive time frame and evolution of human consciousness has really stuck with me. After this review, it's on my reread list!