Peter's Reviews > Permutation City

Permutation City by Greg Egan
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M 50x66
's review
Jul 29, 2014

liked it
bookshelves: read-more-than-once, read-in-2011, unusual-cities, sff-scifi
Read from July 10 to August 04, 2011

A mixed bag
Just finished reading this for the second time. The first was several years ago. Not as good as I remember it, unfortunately. Some interesting sci-fi premises, some contrived ones, some tacked-on plot twists. I didn't find myself caring about the characters a great deal.

Among the interesting premises, and central to the novel, is that of a simulation or cellular automaton that is complex enough to have consciousness. Note that simulations and automata are computer programs, which in turn are finite data structures that change state according to well-defined rules. In this novel's world, it doesn't matter how, where, or in what sequence those states are recorded. The conscious sim-being experiences its world as a seamless reality. So far so good. But the novel lost me in places when expanding on this idea, for example when some of those sim-consciousnesses end up having an effect on the fabric of their own existence. Or something like that.

With that said, there were some nice little touches, for example the scanned man who copes with immortality by programming himself to obsess over a new hobby every few years (where "few" could mean a few thousand). At one point he aspires to build 200,000 table legs by hand.


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Reading Progress

07/11/2011 page 68
19.0% "Re-reading this thought-provoking novel. Not claiming to get all of it. Bonus points for "Solipsist Nation.""
07/19/2011 page 132
38.0% ""Brain the size of a planet--and here I am, counting to ten." Egan quotes Douglas Adams, here in the context of an experiment in distributed consciousness. The quoted character is a digitized "Copy" of a person. The Copy's software is spread out across 1000 computer sites around the world. Everything (including counting) feels normal to the Copy, though."
07/24/2011 page 185
53.0% ""If you were a Copy, you'd believe the dust theory, too. You'd feel the truth of it in your nonexistent bones.""
08/01/2011 page 287
82.0% "Almost...there... It's a dry read for the most part. Not as good as I remember it on first reading. Just downgraded from 4 stars to 3. Bracing myself for the sci-fi religious allegory that I remember cringing at a little when I first read it."
08/02/2011 page 301
86.0% "Almost...there...just trying to get to the end, check it off my list."

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