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Incandescence

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,212 Ratings  ·  135 Reviews
The long-awaited new novel from Greg Egan! Hugo Award-winning author Egan returns to the field with Incandescence, a new novel of hard SF.
The Amalgam spans nearly the entire galaxy, and is composed of innumerable beings from a wild variety of races, some human or near it, some entirely other. The one place that they cannot go is the bulge, the bright, hot center of the gal
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Hardcover, 300 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Gollancz (first published 2008)
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Exordium of Tears by Andrew P. WestonDiaspora by Greg EganPermutation City by Greg EganDune by Frank Herbert1984 by George Orwell
Best Intelligent Sci-Fi
12th out of 109 books — 49 voters
Revelation Space by Alastair ReynoldsThe Martian by Andy WeirFoundation by Isaac AsimovUse of Weapons by Iain M. BanksA Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
best hard science fiction
96th out of 248 books — 394 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,426)
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Jason
Mar 05, 2014 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2014
2.5 Stars

I love Greg Egan. I love his hard science fiction. I enjoy his near lecture style of his novels. Unfortunately, this book left me unable to bond with any of the characters. I kept putting this book down do to how slow I felt that it was going. As a result of start up and start again, I really lost most of this novel. I skim read, blanked out, and totally forgot things as I went along....

Oh well, I will reread this another day if I decide to give it a second chance.
Bruce
Oct 28, 2008 Bruce rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Maybe 3 and a half stars...

Greg Egan continues to write about the far far future in an intelligent thoughtful creative manner.

On the other hand, you have to be ready to deal with things like a large portion of the narrative of this book focusing on the discovery of newton/einsteinian laws of motion and relativity by an alien race. What made it more annoying to me was that all the terms were made up. So you have to remember that template mathematics means... algebra? and memorize (if you are real
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Brent Werness
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robert Laird
Jun 26, 2013 Robert Laird rated it liked it
(3.5 stars would be a better rating)

Egan's tale of an alien species, in the process of cultural transcendence triggered by resolute need, is really interesting. It's hard to complain about characterization when you're reading about aliens, their thoughts, actions and words, but Egan did a fairly good job with that. While the tiny world of the aliens, the Splinter, is fairly simplistic, I was 90% of the way through the story before I really had a good picture in my mind about its nature. Whether
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E
Jul 11, 2013 E rated it really liked it
Shelves: space-future
I am very much a fan of Greg Egan's hard scifi. Here he presents us with two stages in the development of society and intelligence. One world that has reached, discovered and understood all there is, and struggles with finding balance and reason to live their eternal lifes. And one that is just in the process of awakening and developing a thirst for knowledge (or so it seems).

The story of the inhabitants of the splinter feels like a visit to a more substantial version of Abbott's Flatland. Even
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Derek
Jun 12, 2012 Derek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Brilliant. Hard SF at its absolute best.

It's almost impossible to imagine a galaxy-spanning civilization in a universe still bounded by the absolute limitation of the speed of light, but Egan manages to do it, and do it well. Yet, the galactic civilization is almost a throwaway in this tale. The true story is about a microcosmic society in a hidden backwater.

The people of the Splinter (from the start, clearly recognizable as some kind of orbital habitat) are clearly post-apocalyptic, their scie
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Ben Babcock
Much like Diaspora , Incandescence is more of a fictional treatise on esoteric ideas than it is a novel. A loosely convergent tale of two plots, Incandescence is a showcase of Greg Egan's ability to think big--really, hugely, mindbogglingly big. Once again, Egan sidesteps the traditional boundaries of consciousness and identity. There is nary a human to be seen in this book--personalities descended from DNA, yes, but nothing we could call humanity. Incandescence is posthuman to a very literal d ...more
Ron
Aug 04, 2015 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Yeah! This is what I’ve been looking for: hard science fiction which clamps on to you like a pit bull and won’t let go.

(view spoiler) Unlikely? Who cares? It’s a great story. In fact, t
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Leo
Sep 14, 2008 Leo rated it liked it
Recommended to Leo by: http://scalzi.com/whatever/?p=1064
This is the hardest SciFi I've ever read.

It comes pretty close to a lyrical exploration of the physics of the General Theory of Relativity.

Not knowing much of the physics, I found some of it a little hard to follow, but overall it was fun, and it looks like on the author's webpage www.gregegan.net there's some nice supplemental material to help understand what's going on.

I'd heartily recommend the book to anyone with an interest in physics, but even ignoring that, it was still a fun, beautiful
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Gendou
Apr 06, 2014 Gendou rated it really liked it
This is classic Egan. It's got an alien species that lives on an asteroid inside the accretion disk of a neutron star, which is totally bad ass! The "Aloof" play a small part in this book, but we don't actually get to meet them or anything.

Minus one star for incomprehensibility. The cardinal directions in the splinter could easily have been named north/south/east/west but were instead alien sounding words that were simply harder to keep straight. I found this ironic because there's even a plot p
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Username
Feb 10, 2016 Username rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, paper
From Greg Egan's site: "A few reviewers complained that they had trouble keeping straight the physical meanings of the Splinterites’ directions. This leaves me wondering if they’ve really never encountered a book before that benefits from being read with a pad of paper and a pen beside it, or whether they’re just so hung up on the idea that only non-fiction should be accompanied by note-taking and diagram-scribbling that it never even occurred to them to do this."

Also: "much of what I write is c
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Matthew Nielsen
Aug 05, 2015 Matthew Nielsen rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. It is not an easy read but ever since I read Diaspora, Greg Egan's books have captivated me. None so much as Diaspora sadly but this one is great nonetheless.

Reading about a civilization waking up in their world and undergoing a rapid enlightenment that lead into an understanding of Relativity was very interesting.

When the book ended I was sure I had a corrupted file...but no...it was over and it took a while to figure out what I had just read.

(view spoiler)
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Rachel
May 26, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
I read Egan's Orthogonal trilogy before this, although this was written several years earlier. This book shares the main premise with those. Because of impending catastrophe to their home worlds, aliens who have a very different physiology from us, but implausibly similar emotional lives, figure out whole fields of physics from scratch in one generation. In Orthogonal, it was a universe with different physical laws than ours. Here, the physics is about more-or-less (I understand very little of i ...more
Phil Scovis
Aug 15, 2014 Phil Scovis rated it liked it
I love Greg Egan's vision of the future, where humans have become omnipotent immortal gods, but they retain their essential humanity. (Readers of Schild's Ladder will find it familiar).

This book is hard work! Through the eyes of primitive insect-like inhabitants of a small asteroid, it tells the story of the development of modern astrophysics. The progress seems a little facile, as these creatures never seem to take a wrong turn, or get mired in politics and religion. But then, they're not huma
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Alexey Popov
Sep 28, 2014 Alexey Popov rated it really liked it
This novel is quite interesting. The first plot, a search of a "lost DNA species" in the center of our Galaxy performed by a group of transapient beings, is, well, acceptable. The heroes "teleport" (with an einsteinian/transhumanist twist) from place to place looking for traces of the lost species. Nothing like an RPG or Indiana Jones though.
The second plot, a quest for knowledge - and ultimate survival - of very strange centipede-like creatures who live inside a hollowed asteroid the Splinter t
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Alexandra
Apr 27, 2015 Alexandra rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Another in my long slog towards Reading Everything By Greg Egan, Dammit.

When I started this last week, I was completely thrown: it was familiar. Like, I had definitely read this before. Yet I had definitely got it from the TBR shelf, so... wha? I thought about it, and I didn't remember the ending, but let's be honest - that's not exactly unusual for me. So I read a few more pages - still familiar. I read ahead 20 or so pages - getting less familiar. Eh; I decided just to keep reading, and see wh
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ABR
Jan 18, 2016 ABR rated it it was amazing
I was a little skeptical of this one at first, owing to some of the reviews saying it's just a bunch of boring physics lessons. Well yes, but no. Imagine what it would be like to hear Galileo, Newton, Bohr, Einstein, and Feynman all going at it in the same room. All working together, and moreover gifted with a fortuitous vantage point that allows them to conduct experiments and gain direct insight into phenomena within hours with simple instruments that took humanity hundreds of years and the he ...more
John Reeves
Jun 16, 2014 John Reeves rated it really liked it
Read this after Diaspora by Greg Egan also, because I had to hear more of what this guy had to say.

I think this roughly takes place after Diaspora, but WAY after. In a galaxy where to get from point A to point B (if B is unexplored) you first end out nano machines at high speed, and when they've built a receiver, you transmit your consciousness digitally. Makes sense to me. If you like, you leave a backup behind just in case something goes wrong. You use quantum encryption so that you can know i
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Niklaus
per quale motivo uno scrittore deve autocompiacersi del suo sapere e trasformare, se non richiesto, un libro in un ibrido tra narrativa SF e bigino di fisica avanzata ? Certo se lo scrittore fosse Jostein Gaarder potrebbe scrivere "il mondo di Sofia", se lo scrittore fosse Oliver Sacks potrebbe unire l'alta cultura medico scientifica alla narrativa e al saggio antropologico, se fosse Robert Gilmore potrebbe ambientare Alice nel mondo della fisica quantistica, ... ma se non e', perche' ammorbare ...more
Dick Ulmer
I enjoyed the book, although the technical discussion of discovering the laws of physics did get somewhat pedantic. The end is anticlimactic. I agree with Ben Babcock, who writes "Incandescence also doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by the jacket copy. I was told that the convergence of these plots would reveal the motivations of the Aloof—and that really intrigued me. I wanted to know why the Aloof were so different from the Amalgam and why they had chosen to make this communication ...more
Alexis DeSousa
Feb 21, 2015 Alexis DeSousa rated it did not like it
Greg Egan's Incandescence is a hard sci-fi novel about a large expanse of space called the Amalgam, filled with many different sentient species, and the center of it (the bulge) which is occupied by a group called the Aloof. The Aloof allow traveling through their territory, but don't really associate themselves with the rest of the species in the world. The story follows both Rakesh (a traveler set on confronting the Aloof about some information from a human DNA related new world) and Roi, an a ...more
Jack
Mar 06, 2009 Jack rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
There are other very good hard sf authors out there, but Egan is the gold standard IMO. A humane story about a grand search for personal meaning and a disaster adventure and a physics lesson all woven together.
Mick
Mar 21, 2012 Mick rated it liked it
Shelves: hard-scifi
Enjoyed the universe and the story. I Had a hard time following a lot of the science. I'll have to give it another read sometime and see if the science is easier to follow knowing the outcome.
Price
Jan 18, 2013 Price rated it did not like it
Every time a bit of plot threatens to pop up, a physics lecture swoops in and nips it right in the bud. SKIP IT.
Gary Sedivy
Dec 31, 2014 Gary Sedivy rated it liked it
Two stories which eventually come together: One group of people are so technologically advanced they don't really travel through space bodily, but are transported 'Star Trek' transporter style. Mostly they only use avatars. The other group are crab-like denizens of an asteroid who are just discovering mathematics, Newton's laws, algebra, etc.
It took a while (about half the book) to get involved and interested in the stories. The end of the book did not seem like an end, but a cliff-hanger which
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Benjamin Edwards
Dec 20, 2014 Benjamin Edwards rated it it was amazing
Wow, just wow. Great book, great premise, great writing. Very reminiscent of Iain M, but with a very unique spin. The Amalgam is literally galaxy spanning, post-post scarcity they live in an age when everything is possible except doing something new. Then a quest to the center of the galaxy, “the bulge,” where a genetic cousin may be. Meanwhile (or in the distant past or future) the citizens of an arc, the last bastion of their species, rediscover their birthright (intelligence) to save themselv ...more
Desiree Rowan
Jul 28, 2015 Desiree Rowan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like Pulling teeth

This book is one of the most boring I've ever tried to read in my life! Pages and pages of these 2 aliens talking about the weight and orbit of a rock. It just went on and on and on! Furthermore, you never care about any of the characters bc you never feel there's ever anything at stake. It just seems like beings in 2 separate stories drifting about their lives. I almost ALWAYS finish a book and finish it quickly; I tried over and over but this was SO BORING that I finally have
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Nelson Minar
Jan 27, 2014 Nelson Minar rated it it was ok
Chosen because it's another story about the Amalgam, a setup I like. But it's not so great. Two separate stories only tangentially related. One of them (the Amalgam side) is sort of OK, but the characters are not well written and strangely passive. The other story probably seems great to some people, it's basically about a civilization discovering the theory of Relativity for themselves only in a weird world orbiting a neutron star. Lots of chapters of explaining the development of a scientific ...more
Jacob
Aug 25, 2015 Jacob rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Maybe not quite as good as Diaspora, but still a very interesting read. The alien cultures that appear in the book are fascinating.
Some reviews I read criticize the book for not having everything come together in the end. I'm not entirely sure that's accurate, but even if it is, strictly speaking, true the way everything ended made sense to me.
There is a major issue with the book though. While you don't come to Egan for his characters, it does help to have them interesting. There are two story l
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SciFi Kindle
Apr 23, 2014 SciFi Kindle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The POV’s of the two alternating narratives that comprise this novel are so wildly different in style, that it feels like two separate authors are at work. One follows a restless citizen of a far future galactic civilization on a quest to discover something, anything, new and mysterious in the aseptically tame society he inhabits. The other narrative observes an alien species in an environment wildly different than our own discovering fundamental physics on their own terms under the threat of en ...more
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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
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“Parantham finally realized that selecting a star on the map enabled a sub-menu with the unassuming option "Go to star". Choosing this did not change the map's viewpoint or magnification; rather, it caused the map to inquire politely, "Are you sure you wish to travel to this star?” 3 likes
“We’ve been half right about a lot of things, but there’s something missing from our theories, something whose nature we haven’t even guessed yet. If we don’t learn to understand it, it will kill us.” 1 likes
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