Aaron Arnold's Reviews > Diaspora

Diaspora by Greg Egan
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Apr 12, 12

bookshelves: science-fiction, favorites, read-in-2010
Read in January, 2010

Ever since I read Permutation City, Egan has been one of my favorite hard sci-fi authors, and when I cracked open this book and saw that the first forty pages were a hardcore blow-by-blow of an AI becoming self- aware that would do Marvin Minsky proud, I knew that I would love it too. Brief plot synopsis: in the near future where humanity has trifurcated into AIs, sentient robots, and flesh-bound transhumans, an unexplained binary neutron star collision and subsequent gamma ray burst forces the remnants of civilization to colonize the galaxy in order to prevent such an extinction event from ever happening again. While Diaspora is of course filled with laugh-out-loud clumsy infodumps ("Say, can you tell me about your trans-universal particle physics model?" "Not until I brief you on hyperdimensional topology!"), it was also a surprisingly strong exploration of how humans – no matter if they're flesh and blood or sentient programs – cope with death and loss. I suppose that this is a common theme in Egan's works, and some of the AI characters do seem somewhat reprised from Permutation City, but Diaspora connects the deaths of individuals to the extinction of human life in a clever and meaningful way, and also ties that into personal and societal maturity (what happens when you want to simply stop exploring?) in a way that reminded me of Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad, which is high praise. Science fiction at its best uses both existing and imaginary technology to explore old human issues in new ways, and it's a shame Egan isn't more famous because he does that as well as anyone.
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