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Diaspora ()

It's the 30th Century and "people" have mostly become robots or computer programs, though some "fleshers" remain.  But then a physics-defying cataclysm wipes out the fleshers and sends a couple of virtual beings (polises) searching for answers to what happened.  Given infinite time they are able to explore the entire universe and beyond into thousands of new dimensions and so on and so forth...

Samuel Johnson once said that "the prospect of hanging wonderfully concentrates the mind".  Well, so does the prospect that the characters you're reading about could die.  Our mortality forms the fundamental tension of our existence--remove that tension and you drain away much of the drama of life, and of literature.  Of course, the other great source of tension in our existence comes from our quest for knowledge.  Here Mr. Egan succeeds a little better, with speculation that's at least interesting, though spectacularly confusing (at least for the non-scientifically minded) and not particularly appetizing.

During a discussion of Leon Kass's assignment of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Birthmark to the incoming Presidential Bioethics Council, Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds suggested that those of us who advocate for humanity as currently constituted would not much like Greg Egan's vision of the posthuman future.  He was right.  Whatever the beings in this book are they aren't human.  And besides the problems presented by their eternality and their ability to achieve omniscience, there's one far bigger problem : they don't love nor are they lovable.  In fact, they're quite off-putting.  You don't much root for them because you just can't care about them.

Some folks might argue that it would be worth sacrificing all that makes us human if in exchange we were to receive the eternal life that's held out here.  But if we aren't going to be the ones to receive this life, if instead it's going to beings that are not human and who won't use that life in pursuit of the things that make us human, then what stake do we have in such a future?  Does it make any sense for us to root against our own species?  I'm glad my computer has a large memory bank and a couple of the programs are fairly neat, but I'm not willing to exchange my life for them.  Why would someone hope for the day when we exchange all of humankind for nothing more than such computer memory and programs?  There's just something creepy and antihuman about this kind of desire and it makes Mr. Egan's imagined future seem awfully cold and uninviting.  This is a future worth fighting against, though it's mildly diverting for a few hundred pages.


Grade: (C)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Greg Egan's Home Page
    -Foundations (Greg Egan)
    -AUTHOR PAGE : Greg Egan (Harper Collins)
    -STORY : Yeyuka : a short story by Greg Egan (Infinity Plus)
    -STORY : Worthless : a short story by Greg Egan (Infinity Plus)
    -STORY : TAP : a novelette by Greg Egan (Infinity Plus)
    -INTERVIEW : with Greg Egan (September 1996, Ibn Qirtaiba)
    -EBOOKS : Greg Egan (FictionWise)
    -Greg Egan - Bibliography Summary (SF Site)
    -Greg Egan Fan Page (Philipp Leonard Keller)
    -Greg Egan (Anachron Foundation. Page compiled by Henry W.Targowski )
    -Greg Egan (Twisted Web)
    -Greg Egan (SF Book)
    -Greg Egan (PublicLogica)
    -Greg Egan (Alpha Ralpha Boulevard)
    -Recommended reading: Greg Egan (A+ Books)
    -REVIEW : of Diaspora (David Mathew, Infinity Plus)
    -REVIEW : of Diaspora (Alex Kasman, Mathematical Fiction)
    -REVIEW : of Diaspora (Danny Yee -
    -REVIEW : of Diaspora (JDO, Far Horizons)
    -REVIEW : of Diaspora (Paul-Michael Agapow)
    -REVIEW : of Diaspora (Rupert Neethling)
    -REVIEW : of Quarantine by Greg Egan (Danny Yee -
    -REVIEW : of Quarantine (Ibn Qirtaiba)
    -REVIEW : of Quarantine (JDO, Far Horizons)
    -REVIEW : of Axiomatic by Greg Egan (Danny Yee,
    -REVIEW : of Permutation City by Greg Egan (Danny Yee -
    -REVIEW : of Permutation City (The Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi)
    -REVIEW : of Permutation City (Rupert Neethling)
    -REVIEW : of Axiomatic (Christina Schulman, Epiphyte Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Distress (JDO , Far Horizons)
    -REVIEW : of Distress (The Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi)