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Permutation City

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  3,560 ratings  ·  224 reviews
In the not-too-distant future, technology has given birth to a form of immortality. The human mind can be scanned and uploaded into a virtual reality program to become a perfect electronic "Copy", aware of itself. A new Copy finds himself forced to cooperate in scientific experiments with the flesh-and-blood man he was copied from. (From the author of Quarantine.)
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by HarperPrism (first published 1994)
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Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardDune by Frank Herbert1984 by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books
414th out of 4,961 books — 17,189 voters
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Transhumanist Books
3rd out of 88 books — 87 voters


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Community Reviews

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Apatt
Permutation City by Greg Egan

I don't read a lot of hard sf because my understanding of science is rudimentary at best, but I do tend to enjoy it when I read one that do not go too far over my head. I feel I only need to understand the basic plot and the characters' motivation, the whys if not the hows of it. If those conditions are met then my patchy understanding of the scientific details is not too much of an impediment and the bits that get through to me tend to be quite fascinating.

So it is
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Peter Gerdes
Nov 14, 2014 Peter Gerdes rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Geeks and Philosophers
This was my first introduction to Greg Egan and it blew my mind. Permutation City was the first book I ever read that made me say, 'Wow, that's a really interesting argument.' Other books made me think, 'huh, maybe we will have jet blaster space rays in the future.' but this one presents a serious and troubling philosophical argument. Permutation City isn't as fast paced or as idea dense as some of his other works but the ideas are much bigger and more provocative.

Egan is often criticized for l
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T4ncr3d1
Cosa sono io? I dati? Il processo che li genera? Il rapporto tra i numeri?
Tutto questo messo insieme?


Esattamente dieci anni dopo Neuromante e cinque anni prima di Matrix, si impone questo ricco e visionario romanzo, con una rilettura della realtà virtuale forse troppo complessa, ma che davvero è capace di aprire la mente.
Scenari cyber degni di Gibson e soci, scenografie e paesaggi mastodontici che ricordano un po' Ian M. Banks (Criptosfera è il più simile, ed è proprio dello stesso anno - le mig
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Bruce
Rereading this book 15 years later reminds me why I still bother reading Egan's books, despite very lukewarm experiences like his more recent Zendegi. Why hasn't this been reprinted? (update: super cheap Kindle edition available, you lucky reader you!)

This book crackles and hums with ideas that are not just brilliant within their own context, but ask deep questions about our existence. The extrapolation of these ideas is solid and well meshed with the unique and intriguing plot.

Egan is at the to
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Olethros
-Desde las ideas y las reflexiones que estas deberían generar, abrumadora.-

Género. Ciencia-Ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. En la segunda mitad del siglo XXI, nuestro cerebro, nuestra mente y nuestra consciencia pueden ser reproducidas mediante avanzados soportes tecnológicos de software y hardware. Esas “copias” pueden ser usadas como elementos de seguridad en caso de que a la persona le suceda algo, pero también son conscientes de sí mismas y de no ser “reales” y sí ser simulaciones informáticas. Pa
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Daniorte
Abstraccionismo de Egan pero esta vez sin desbocarse.

Imagina que antes de morirte te escanean todo el cuerpo a nivel molecular copiando hasta la última neurona y luego esa copia la vuelcan en un programa informático de realidad virtual en el que cobras vida de forma inteligente, dándole un continuo a tu "yo" pero sin ser de carne y hueso. Imagina que una vez que esas copias viven en su mundo virtual deciden dejar de depender de hardware físico y terraqueo para proporcionarse una vida infinita..
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David
Egan writes sci-fi, heavy on the sci. It’s what sci-fi was meant to be: a tale that takes a scientific idea and leads the imagination, wide-eyed, past the event horizon. The protagonists of Permutation City are software humans, scanned from fleshly originals, virtually immortal, and fated to craft a purpose for themselves in a world of infinite flexibility. Those who revel in the vertigo of Egan’s world may want to move on to Diaspora next.
Alex Chaffee
This book has all the stuff I was thinking about in the early 1990s -- artificial life, genetic algorithms, cellular automata, philosophy of consciousness, virtual reality, neurochemistry, brain simulation -- all woven together into a premise that is absurd but with enough actual computer science (and inside jokes) to make it mind-blowingly plausible. Not a lot of action, but fun -- if you can follow the details.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Fantastic book, very well written, with great characters and full of fabulous ideas. But what's really incredible is that this is an almost 20 years old near future hard SF novel that doesn't feel outdated at all.
Luke Burrage
Second time through after forgetting I'd read it before.

Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #272.
Akiva
I have this awesome string of random bits that I'm hiding in my pocket. It is a magical fairy land with dragons and wizards and lots of attractive princesses that need saving. What do you mean that's just pocket lint? It's all information! I can interpret it however I want. There's so much pocket lint in the world surely some of it is actually Narnia. In my pocket lint universe I am an immortal god! My name is only spoken in awed pocket lint whispers. What do you mean pocket lint immortal god Me ...more
Josh
PERMUTATION CITY is a complex and at times challenging read that is well worth persevering through.

First published in 1994, it reads as relevant today as any modern day tech-fi, if not perhaps more so, encompassing a deep cogitation of reality and it's endless boundaries elevated by technology and re-rationalizing what it means to simply 'be'. PERMUTATION CITY will make you think and read harder - and that's a good thing.

The story is multifaceted, taking the reader on a journey through the poss
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B. Rule
This is a tough book to evaluate. The characters are two dimensional exposition machines, the prose is largely utilitarian, and even the plot is pretty flimsy. Further, the conceit at the heart of the novel and the fulcrum for all of the action is a theory (the so-called "dust theory") that is ridiculous balderdash (and, if taken seriously, basically an excuse for moral heinousness).

However, the book is also an amazingly thoughtful rumination on the philosophical and psychological issues that w
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David Williams
A nice little bit of cyberpunk, though this seems a bit too cheery to be part of the genre (there is some cynicism, yes, but on the whole there is a lot of hope, which is a little strange but I'll give it a pass). There are a few rather loose ends that flop about here and there that seem mostly to be character studies ("different personalities confront eternity"-type things) and which really don't influence the main narrative much at all, but Egan has tried to tie them all up together to give t ...more
Benjamin Atkinson
First a disclaimer:
This is not a book for beginners in science-fiction. In fact, it comes very close to being a book only for doctorate level scientists. However, if you like your sci-fi hard as obsidian, this is the book for you. Egan does a masterful job of world building and upon my second reading of this hard sf masterpiece, I finally understood his concepts. The premise of this novel is very ambitious and has been copied in Cliff Notes fashion, in movies like the Matrix etc. The book deals
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Jason
This book takes some time to absorb, and I'm probably doing it a great injustice by reviewing it so quickly after finishing it (and with such a rushed reading by such an uneducated reader). Greg Egan clearly knows what he's talking about when it comes to theoretical physics, and I certainly don’t, so the main bits of Permutation City intimidated me to a point that I may have taken the book too seriously. Some of the reviews I've read now that I've finished have lead me to believe some irony and ...more
Richard
Jul 07, 2010 Richard rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Richard by: John from SFGames, HardSF Group
What a strange book. The author takes a very strange idea (sorry, no spoilers) to a logical conclusion — but that concept requires some long and abstruse discussions that verge on analytic philosophy.

As one of my fellow readers points out, the underlying story would probably barely flesh out a novella. A huge portion of the content here is in the defense of an existentially suspect creation.

This won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, but I think it maybe should h
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Nick Fagerlund
This one came up when Schwern and I were poking around the Wikipedia articles about Conway's Game of Life, and I was like, "You know what, it's been way too long since I just said 'fuck everything' and downed a whole book of potentially dubious quality in a single slurp. _Let's do this._"

I can't really say I'd recommend this one: the dialogue is plain embarrassing in that classically hard-SF-speechifying way, and the characters were forgettable ciphers. The plot didn't lock together very well,
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Rob
This is the second Greg Egan novel I've read, after Distress. Both books follow the same rough template: a (relative) everyman protagonist encounters a person or group of people with bizarre metaphysical beliefs about science, and is initially skeptical until some startling event vindicates those beliefs. Both of these books are very pure instances of conceptual science fiction; the philosophical and scientific ideas are the meat of the book, not just convenient setup for the plot.

Permutation Ci
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Nelson Minar
Enjoyable, thoughtful exploration of the existential dread of being able to upload your consciousness to a computer. What does it mean to copy your soul? To run that copy slower than real time, or faster? What happens to society? It's a great theme and Egan has a very thoughtful treatment of it.

The part of the book that didn't work for me was the somewhat mystical explanation for a transcendetal computer, a machine with effectively infinite computing power. I'm OK just accepting that device to l
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Pierre-emmanuel
Ce livre propose des réflexions intéressantes sur ce que pourrait être l'existence d'êtres entièrement numériques, mais pour cela sombre parfois dans un blabla incompréhensible et une juxtaposition de personnages que l'on a du mal à suivre.
Jimbo
Another deeply existential tale from Egan. Permutation City gives us an intriguing tour of the concepts of "self" and "consciousness" and the implications to both, and to society, as humans transcend their biological bodies. The characters and plot itself and fascinating, and at times beautifully disturbed.

Sadly, one of the central concepts (I think I can say "Dust Theory" without spoiling anything) failed to totally convince me. I realise this shouldn't really be a problem in sci-fi, but when p
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Dan
Nov 08, 2009 Dan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: signal
Exasperating. The author presents some interesting ideas and then offers solutions which are entirely nonsensical. In particular, once you have played the "in an infinite universe, anything can and will happen" card, I no longer feel obliged to care about your plot, because you are just randomly reporting events.

Occasionally I see people talking about "splitting" or "cloning" consciousness, and I guess I now understand better where they are coming from. However I still feel that this is basicall
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Tom Duff
Permutation City
Permutation City

I wanted to like Permutation City far more than I did. I liked the premise of body scanning to create AIs to continue living online after you die. In the first half of the book, I felt that is what I got and I was following things just fine. But in the second half of the book, things got more esoteric, the plot seemed to get a bit more random and confused, and by the end I really didn't care much what happened to any of them.

If you're more philosophical or want t
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John Reeves
This was the easiest 5 stars. I'm considering bumping my other ratings all down a notch just to give this one more weight.
The book talks about really big ideas of mind uploading, the nature of consciousness and existence. It does this starting in a very plausible near future (especially impressive considering it was written before ideas like the cloud were entirely obvious). It actually begins by describing a person awakening as a simulated copy of a living person. When he comes to realize he is
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Jack
It's a little inaccurate to say I "liked" this book. I appreciated it, which is a different thing. And sad to say, I didn't even understand it, at least not to my own satisfaction. The problem, I think, is that Egan likes to delve into multiple levels of abstraction. Whether the flaw is Egan's or mine, I have trouble following his explanations. In this case what starts with self-aware human simulations running on computers turns into human simulations running on computers which are simulated on ...more
Michele Settanni
Egan fa una specie di divulgazione scientifico-filosofica, e decisamente non di quella facile. La storia fondamentalmente segue i diversi personaggi, siamo nel 2050) nel loro confrontarsi con una copia digitale di se stessi. O meglio, per buoona parte del libro la prospettiva è proprio quella delle copie digitali, che vivono in un mondo programmato per accoglierli al meglio. C'è l'onnipotenza, insieme all'immortalità e a una pletora di dilemmi etici ed esistenziali che questa realtà paradossale ...more
Rodrick Macdonald
Amazing book from the late 90s. This is for anyone with at least a rudimentary knowledge of how computers work, plus an interest in virtual reality or trans-humanism. I think it's also pretty much essential that you've played with Conway's game of life at some point in your life since cellular automata plays a big part in this book.

I found the "dust" idea unsatisfying, but every other element in this book is completely mind blowing. I first read this when it was first published in paperback and
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Tsana Dolichva
Permutation City by Greg Egan is the first book I've read by the author, although I've been meaning to pick up one of his books for some time. I have to admit, left to base my decision only on blurbs this probably wouldn't have been the one I chose to read first, but it was the book that came up as a review copy from the (new reprint) publisher. Que sera sera and I certainly don't regret reading it. I have definite plans to read more Egan in the future.

The blurb is a bit misleading, I think, bec
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Army of Penguins
This is a very, very ambitious book with a several audacious, mindblowing ideas. And it almost pulls it off.

I won't even go into the central, slightly crazy plot element here. I'll just say that I was willing to roll with it after my "Wait, what? No, really, what?" reaction.

The characters aren't super-deep, but their individual arcs and fates are what kept me reading. This book shows its strengths in how all kinds of people deal with questions of what makes them who they are and who they are in
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Episode 272, Permutation City. 1 5 Jun 08, 2015 12:31PM  
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Greg Egan specialises in hard science fiction stories with mathematical and quantum ontology themes, including the nature of consciousness. Other themes include genetics, simulated reality, posthumanism, mind transfer, sexuality, artificial intelligence, and the superiority of rational naturalism over religion.

He is a Hugo Award winner (and has been shortlisted for the Hugos three other times), an
...more
More about Greg Egan...
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“How does it feel to be seven thousand years old?"
"That depends."
"On what?"
"On how I want to feel.”
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“What am I? The data? The process that generates it? The relationships between the numbers?” 1 likes
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