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Schild's Ladder

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  2,098 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
Twenty thousand years into the future, an experiment in quantum physics has had a catastrophic result, creating an enormous, rapidly expanding vacuum that devours everything it comes in contact with.

Now humans must confront this deadly expansion. Tchicaya, aboard a starship trawling the border of the vacuum, has allied himself with the Yielders -- those determined to study
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2002)
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Noah M.
Mar 17, 2009 Noah M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was by far Greg Egan's most cohesive and coherent novel that I've read so far. I will issue a warning: Quite a few chunks of this book read as lectures on quantum mechanics and quantum loop gravity. It's all interesting, and is coherent in the abstract if you're paying close attention, but it is dense as hell. Certainly Greg Egan is not an author for everyone.

His characters are still pretty lifeless. Some of the parts that are supposed to be quasi-romantic come off as cold and unfeeling. He
Jun 29, 2015 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Like other reviewers of this book, I enjoyed the in-depth quantum physics that is liberally sprinkled throughout the book. I have never read a work of fiction with so much technical detail.

But the technical detail is simply not enough to sustain a science fiction novel. I did not have any feelings about the characters. And, often, I did not even understand who the characters were. Were they beings with bodies? Or were they simulations? Or bodies that were shrunk to insect proportions? Or totally
Apr 04, 2015 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2015
4.5 Stars

Schild's Ladder is a master piece of hard science fiction and of the skill and style of Greg Egan. This is not an action packed futuristic romp that would make the perfect summer blockbuster movie. What it is, is an exemplary novel that showcases the brilliance of Greg Egan as a writer. In my experience, there really is no one that writes like this, basically putting physics text books in a fictional story format. Like all Egan's books, he takes factual physics and sends it through the
I will openly admit that "Schild's Ladder" is not for everyone, that to enjoy it fully you may need a degree in physics or maths. Egan has much more accessible books - and both his "Permutation City" and "Diaspora" are heartfelt recommendations. But "Schild's Ladder" is the one close to my heart. I re-read it over the last week and here it was, as good as I remembered. Perhaps even better.

And I suppose I will never ever understand why so many reviews say Egan's characters to be unbelievable. I d
Everything I said in my review of Diaspora applies to Schild's Ladder as well.

There are some really great ideas in this book. Egan loves to speculate many thousands of years into the future; to invent detailed new physics, and explore the theoretical possibilities of the universe. In this book he touches on some interesting philosophical as well as scientific ideas. I thought the metaphor of Schild's Ladder, as an analogue to the drift associated with life and change was quite interesting and
Jun 22, 2015 Liviu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genre-sf
masterpiece of hard sf
Aaron Arnold
After they finish Schild's Ladder, I think most people will remember two main things about it: first, the characters are all really weird and don't react to things quite like normal people do. Second, it's full of math, to the point where it's almost unreadable in parts. So, another Greg Egan book! Point 1 was more interesting for me: a big challenge for books that are set tens of thousands of years in the future is that they're often really hard to relate to. We already live in exponential time ...more
SciFi Kindle
May 13, 2014 SciFi Kindle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greg Egan’s hard SF is so steeped in mathematics, it needs its own sub-genre; Theorem Thriller? MathPunk? This story sets up the dilemma of an ongoing environmental disaster (caused by mathematics) that can only be confronted by the galaxy’s bravest mathematicians, because math. Even so, it’s wildly engrossing, because the stakes are so high, and because the society described has such compelling issues that arrive naturally due to their methods of interstellar transport. Fascinating scenarios ar ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never expected a hard SF book to be so sensitive. In my opinion, the main plot was more like an excuse to introduce us in the mentality and culture (can we call it culture?) of the people. I liked the description of their personalities and their reactions and small details about their lives; that made the book for me. I was partially interested by the plot, but like I expected, I didn't understand almost anything from the physics part.

"Precum dezradacinarea unui mult iubit si sedentar stramos
Christopher McKitterick
I really, really wanted to like Egan's Schild's Ladder, because - wow - now THAT's hard SF! This book is so physics-crunchy that it'll scrape your gums raw. So I slogged through the physics (not a quick read), listened to the characters argue physics (because you can't really care about any of them), and finished without really feeling it is a better book than some of the others. It's certainly full of fascinating science and SFnal issues, such as humanity having moved beyond sexual dimorphism; ...more
Sep 30, 2013 Andreea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, how can I put it? I am not into physics that much (I only studied quantum physics in the 12th grade, which is the last year in highschool in here), so reading about future possible developments in quantum physics is a bit too much for me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book for its general description of the human society, which gave me a feeling of Wow!..have never tought so far (people functioning with procs and mediators, to actually allow you interacting with anyone and anything), I would ...more
Jan 29, 2014 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had me wrapped around its little finger with all of its SCIENCEing. Dense and lengthy, full of mathyness which I'm not super into but was very on board with during the course, also moleculeyness which I'm definitely into. Even the back cover noted that I would be impressed by how well the story moved along given all the SCIENCEing - and I was. I was alternately interested and frustrated with the author's examination of the changing nature of human relationships, given greatly expanded ...more
Egan's best to date: This is an excellent book. Egan manages to sustain a gripping and surprising plot without a single identifiable villain; instead we have sympathetic characters with opposing views on how to deal with the threat of the novo-vacuum. Yes, there ARE characters - they're just different to the standard SF stand-ins. Egan's prose is as efficient and polished as ever, and there are some lovely images. The science is at times formidable - this particular full-time scientist struggled ...more
May 18, 2011 Derek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I run hot and cold for Greg Egan. When he's good he's great, and when he's not he's a chore. I have to admit that it's entirely possible that whether I think he's good or not is entirely related to my ability to understand (or at least to think I understand) what he's talking about. This is possibly the hardest SF I've ever read - and I loved it!

The only downside for me was that he essentially turned an entirely new universe — one that not only did not run on the same laws of Physics as our univ
May 27, 2011 Takenari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I caught up with this book in 2010 and it was a revelation. I like Greg Egan and have read most of his books and stories. Bought this back in 2006 but was reluctant to give it a try since I'd read all his previous novels in Japanese translation and the physics was taxing even so. I now find this one of his most sustained efforts to date. In my mind this should become the next Avatar if it can be made into a movie. It has everything: aliens, romance, action, terrorists and mind-boggling new world ...more
Sep 13, 2016 Jaime rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lleno de ideas ingeniosas, física exótica y un emocionante conflicto. Greg Egan es un tesoro de la ciencia ficción.
Jan 01, 2016 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
(SOME SPOILERS! But not major.)

I have so many thoughts on this book. It was an absolutely fascinating read, but the entire book was basically a love fest of Existentialism, unabashedly and condescendingly so. From a definition from, they define Existentialism as "the notion that humans exist first and then each individual spends a lifetime changing their essence or nature. "

This is it.
That's the book.

So if you are in for it, let me explain:

Greg Egan has created an incr
Nick Black
May 30, 2010 Nick Black rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Twitch
reread 2015-02-16. this book is insane. with the surge of general interest in identity politics in recent years, i think a lot more people ought read this. it would blow some minds. egan is a madman.

pretty interesting! i'm not sure how i feel about this -- i don't read much sci-fi, so elements of the style were quite grating. also, what was up with the liquidgoo on the warehouse roof? i loved a few of the lines, though: "nothing could have lived up to four thousand years of waiting, except
One of the great pleasures of being a reader is in the anticipation of a new book. The disappointment of expectations is perhaps the greatest pain. Greg Egan has always been one of those writers whose new work excites intense anticipation. However recently I have been feeling the pain of disappointment more and more often.

Schild's Ladder has all the ingredients of an Egan classic: speculations on quantum physics, universe-spanning disaster, and characters to whom race, age, size and gender have
Nov 10, 2009 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Asaro mudmen
Post-humans living in a mostly barren universe unleash a parallel universe of sorts in an experiment involving Quantum Graph Theory, something that apparently brings quantum mechanics and general relativity together. This weird otherworld horizon is expanding at half the speed of light, engulfing systems and necessitating evacuations, and trans-humanity is divided into two factions over what to do about it: those who want to figure out how to stop it and those who want to learn to adapt. Then it ...more
Jose Solis
Oct 23, 2016 Jose Solis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-sf
Excelente novela de CF dura. Miles de años en el futuro, la humanidad experimenta con la estructura geométrica del vacío a escalas cuánticas. Y se encuentran algunas de las entidades mas extrañas e incomprensibles que se hayan visto en la ciencia ficción.
A pesar de que la ciencia en la historia es sumamente abstracta y complicada (llena de términos especializados de la (ficticia) Teoría de Grafos Cuánticos), el autor Greg Egan tiene la suficiente habilidad como escritor para hacer accesible la
Feb 04, 2009 Donna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment. This book came highly recommended but was not able to live up to the hype. The basic plot was interesting. Regrettably, no one taught the author the difference between entertainment and a dry physics lecture. Almost a third of the book was wasted on explaining concepts that would have been better left to magic. If I wanted a lecture on physics, I'd dig out some dusty tome to read. The point of scifi is to entertain with a bit of education as a sidebar. When the education p ...more
Aug 14, 2009 Jimbo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: physics/maths geeks
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction, own, favorites
Egan's view of the future is both alien and quintessentially human. This book examines the vast and changing chasms between people, places and even universes. Schilds Ladder is a challenging read - those without some background in science will inevitably object to the physics and maths that have been woven into the story. But those who can appreciate it will enjoy the setting in a universe so very true to our own, even if by the end, they are rooting for it's destruction.
Mar 23, 2010 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This was a real cerebral read. Way way in the future where all sorts of things were possible. How about backing yourself up so that when you meet an untimely demise you can be recreated back to your old self. All sort of enhancements mean you can live pretty much forever. Sex is only for recreation and you have to grow the necessary bits when you are with the other person.
Apr 11, 2010 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-sf
Egan took a great concept and made it into a dull and impenetrable story. It's sad. I like the other Egan books I've read. I feel as though this book, in the hands of another hard SF author (Stephen Baxter for instance), would have sung.
Vilém Zouhar
I lack the required knowledge of quantum mechanics to fully appreciate the complexity of this story. I had to give up at about 25% into the book. Perhaps one day I'll return to this book, more prepared..
Jun 28, 2008 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
If you come across the statement – Schild’s Ladder is the hardest Hard Sci-Fi novel ever written – rest assured, it’s no hyperbole. Pardon me while I go hunting for all my screws, that just … fell off.
Jun 18, 2014 Klerik rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I liked this book, but I'm really not sure. On one hand, it has a lot going for it. It's set in that more or less coherent Egan far-future universe with quantum singleton processors and whatnot, and basically revolves around a group of physicists trying to understand the novo-vacuum, which is a novel vacuum structure which is rapidly expanding and consuming the known universe.

Put like that it sounds kind of bad, but seeing as the universe is large and technology amazing, it's also a pre
Ed eccomi finalmente al mio primo incontro con l'hard sf. E devo dire che ne sono uscito con le ossa rotte.

Per chi non conoscesse il termine, per hard sf (tradotto brutalmente in italiano come "fantascienza hard") si intende quel genere di fantascienza che si focalizza quasi totalmente sul rigore scientifico con cui vengono proposti gli elementi di fantasia. L'autore di questo tipo di fantascienza gioca a fare lo scienziato pazzo, gettando sul tappeto da gioco teorie scientifiche di fantasia, ma
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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 about Greg Egan...

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“My earliest memories are of CP4 — that's a Kähler manifold that looks locally like a vector space with four complex directions, though the global topology's quite different. But I didn't really grow up there; I was moved around a lot when I was young, to keep my perceptions flexible. I only used to spend time in anything remotely like this" — he motioned at the surrounding more-or-less-Euclidean space — for certain special kinds of physics problems. And even most Newtonian mechanics is easier to grasp in a symplectic manifold; having a separate visible coordinate for the position and momentum of every degree of freedom makes things much clearer than when you cram everything together in a single three-dimensional space.” 3 likes
“It was a rigorous result in information theory that once you could learn in a sufficiently flexible manner – something humanity had achieved in the Bronze Age – the only limits you faced were speed and storage; any other structural changes were just a matter of style.” 3 likes
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