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Luminous

(Collected Stories #2)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,215 ratings  ·  74 reviews
LUMINOUS collects together one original story plus nine previously unpublished in book form. Greg Egan's short fiction is at the cutting edge of the genre. His stories range from near future predictions to far future, far space improvisations. His grasp of the latest scientific breakthroughs is unparalleled in science fiction. The stories include 'Transition Dreams', ...more
Paperback, 295 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Gollancz, (first published September 1995)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Jose Moa
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Greg Egan is more a scientific speculation writer that a classic sf writer,he takes the known science and tecnology an extrapolates to its very limit,his tales by that are full of wild but plausible ideas and are very exigent with the reader that have take all his bakground in metaphysics,quantum mechanics,matemathics,genetics ,molecular biology ,artificial inteligence and computing sciences ,some times at a very high level;he is the hardest of the hard sf writers and in this sense is unique.To ...more
Aaron Arnold
This is not quite as good as Axiomatic, his other short story collection I've read. Some of the stories either didn't feature very interesting ideas or had unmemorable protagonists. Interestingly, several of these stories introduce ideas he would later reuse in his novels (e.g. Luminous' idea of battling universal physical/mathematical systems and The Planck Dive's physics technobabble, reintroduced in Schild's Ladder; Transition Dreams' Gleisner robots and The Planck Dive's polises would show ...more
Tim Sharp
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a much weaker book than Diaspora, and with these stories I unfortunately found myself becoming all-too-aware of the shortcomings in that novel that I had previously been willing to overlook because of the sheer giddy weirdness of that particular post-human tale.

I fear my review is going to come off as meaner than I intend, but Luminous somewhat evoked a feeling of being trapped in a room with a person who just mainlined a bunch of PBS science specials/Dawkins books and thinks that
...more
Paul
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall: This story collection actually got better when I tried to write up my reviews for each story, because I started to take the time to think through how the different parts played into each story's narrative. I'm not saying that you need to do some sort of post-modern literary criticism to understand this book, but taking a moment to reflect on what each story is trying to tell you does give you a richer appreciation for the structure and implications.

Initially, I was disappointed because
...more
pax
A lot weaker that "Axiomatic", his somewhat earlier short story collection, though I'm struggling to say why. Too many first person narrators? Stories too similar in their cadence (if not quiet in subject matter)? Nothing as mindblowing as "Cutie"? An almost perceptive lack of interesting interhuman (in a very broad sense of human) relations?

I also do not quiet remember thinking "oh, I've seen this is a novel of his, too!" with so many of the stories in Axiomatic. Is this on purpose? Or by
...more
Cryptid
Oct 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a Czech language edition from the local library. Translation is quite ok, but it still makes any usual Egan's terminology sound a bit too weird for me. No need to even point out that he's definitely not a very poetic writer in the first place and there's definitely no improvement... he's probably the most purposeful clinically descriptive writer I'm able to enjoy and he's got some far future characters who still believe in Big Crunch (which seems now pretty improbable but I think is ok ...more
Simona Vesela
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this maybe 15moths ago. I couldn't get past the last story. Finally I made myself read it. If you don't see yourself understanding it, it is very skippable. On author's website, there is a nice applet as to how the "falling into a black hole" would look like http://www.gregegan.net/PLANCK/Tour/T... . You can also find technical notes there.

But, the stories are overall excellent as always with Greg Egan :)
Beth
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Greg Egan gets it. He understands how things work — science, mathematics, the human brain — and uses that understanding to create mind-blowing but completely plausible scenarios of how they could work. Luminous is a more uneven collection than Axiomatic, but his best stories are ridiculously brilliant.
Bemmu
Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
These short stories are a bit involved to get into, and when many of them fail to have satisfying endings, you start to feel a bit reluctant to go on reading. Here are the interesting ideas from the better stories of the book, to spare you from having to read it all:

"Transition Dreams" - Assumes that having a computer simulate your consciousness would feel the same as having it run in a biological brain. If you agree with this, then feeling alive is nothing more than computation done on some
...more
Will
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Greg Egan is my mind fuck buddy.

A swipe right or a quick call, and he lays on the reader one of his hard sci-fi stories that leaves your mind blown and wanting more.

This is a collection of such stories, dating from the 90s. Most science fiction is either edgy at the time of publication, or stands the test of time, but Egan's stories manage to do both - largely because the story part is generally well executed, but otherwise run-of-the-mill. It is, however, the scientific premise the story is
...more
Eric Lawton
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another of Egan's phenomenal collection of short philosophy fiction in the guise of science fiction. Several explorations of the nature of consciousness from viewpoints such as machine/brain uploads and interfaces and brain chemistry; the nature of space-time and personal identity mixed together as copies of people fall into a black hole or not and many more.
I think his short story collections are better than the full-length novels as they start you thinking without the slight unravelling when
...more
Zach Kimble
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic tales, but...

Sadly, I was spoiled by "Axiomatic", which - to echo many others - contains a collection of superior stories.

Which isn't to say the tales contained in "Luminous" are poor. They are great in their own right and are worth the read. It's just that they don't resonate with me as much as those in "Axiomatic" did.
Pito Salas
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book for short stories. I've only read a few but they were quite good. Sci Fi as well.
Colin Marr
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome
Jeffrey Lin
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it
v. solid! great read! =]
Barak
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very intelligent and original stories, portrayed in a good writing style.

Even if the first and last ones I liked less as they should have probably occupied a longer format than the "short story" one, and even if one or two of them had endings that were predictable to a large extent, overall I was quite impressed by these stories despite being more of a longer novel's aficionado.

Gareth D.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Originaly posted at SF Crowsnest in Oct 2008.


The ten stories in this collection were first published in the mid nineties, where I remember reading many of them in ‘Interzone’. The themes are diverse but all have in common a rooting in hard science, taking concepts in use today and extrapolating them into the near future or imagining what they may lead to one day. The near-future tales are often set in times that we have since reached, yet they have not become outdated like many ideas have.
...more
Ian
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Egan is one of those authors whose fiction I’m repeatedly told I’d like, but everything by him I’ve read in the past has left me a little bit cold – which is one novel, and a handful of stories in Interzone over the years. Nevertheless, if I see one of his books going cheap in a charity shop, I buy it. And even now, when perhaps my taste in fiction is somewhat more discriminating and I look for different things in the fiction I read than I did twenty or thirty years ago… Egan’s fiction still ...more
Molly Rose
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I stumbled upon this book, not having read much "hard" sci fi or any Egan before, and still found it massively enjoyable.

Some of the stories were a touch over my head ('Planck Dive' in particular had me re-reading a lot of the sentences before I understood what was going on), while others had only a light support of the plot with tech/science-based stuff and explored philosophical/ethical/existential ideas more than technological ones ('Reasons to Be Cheerful', 'Cocoon', and 'Silver Fire' seemed
...more
Clio
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Great collection of hard sci-fi. And that's hard in both senses of the word. Egan writes stories based in maths and machines, not people and plot. It's hard to get through one story without having to stop and re-read a previous paragraph, just to figure out the science. Some stories are definitely better then others in the book, but they are all worth a read.
I loved the titular Luminous, despite my answer when asked about what I was reading. I ended up muttering something about ' there's two
...more
Klerik
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The stories included in Luminous treat various issues, including conflicts between science and religion ('Mitochondrial Eve', 'Silver Fire'), discrimination based on sexual identity ('Cocoon') and the meaning of emotion ('Reasons to be Cheerful') and of will ('Mister Volition'). His worlds are hugely interesting: what would happen if standard arithmetic is inconsistent? Or if you could choose which emotions to feel? The perspectives offered are often insightful, and always interesting. The ...more
Caitlyn
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chaff: A good spy-thriller/moral mediation, complete with grippable scifi tech and self reflective immersion. One of the best in this book. ***
Mitochondrial Eve: Yes, racism and in-group bias destroy lives. Yes, sometimes love is that person you don't get sick of, but who doesn't thrill you. Okay but ultimately not a thrilling climax. ***
Luminous: again with the spy motif packed high science. Great, accessible maths, good balance between characters and plot, a highlight of the collection.
Mister
...more
Peter
Mar 13, 2011 added it
Hard, thoughtful, Australian Cyberpunk /SF. Great stuff !: This new collection of short stories by Greg Egan delivers more of the hard, thoughtful, Australian Cyberpunk and Science Fiction that he is famous for.'Luminous' is more than just your average Cyberpunk techno-romp, Egan deals with the big issues. For instance, in 'Mitochondrial Eve', Egan invents the field of "quantum genopaleontology" in order to examine issues of religion, tribalism and racism. Another story, 'Mr Volilition', draws ...more
Craig Citro
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mind-candy
(A few thoughts from when I first read the book)

Transition Dreams: even though I knew the punchline from about the third paragraph, this was a fantastic story. Consciousness is an excellentexample where you're forced to think about why being able to do something (copy a consciousness) is leagues easier than being able to understand or predict that process. I'm also a sucker for the reminder that if switching to a new body sounds scary/confusing, so should going to sleep.

Silver Fire: this manages
...more
Robert
Jul 30, 2010 rated it liked it
A collection of the author's speculative fiction. Four excellent stories balance out the merely "meh." The highlights include:

Reasons to be Cheerful: The life story of a man born with a brain tumor that only lets him feel happiness.

Cocoon: A medical treatment that protects fetuses from diseases that cross the placental barrier raises disturbing possibilities of social engineering.

Our Lady of Chernobyl: A detective on the trail of a stolen - mysteriously overpriced - religious icon.

The Planck
...more
Rafal Szymanski
Sep 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Good, but the previous short story collection 'Axiomatic' was filled with more interesting sci-fi. A couple of stories here I felt didn't have enough of a sci-fi element ('Our Lady of Chernobyl') and one required a level of understanding of physics ('Planck Dive') which I don't have to properly enjoy. That's not a critique, but a warning, I'm sure others would enjoy 'Planck Dive' much more. The titular 'Luminous' was most interesting and thought provoking of the collection as it piqued my ...more
Outis
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not Egan's best. But worth reading anyway for the handful of really cool concepts and twists.
This is a ludicrous adjective to use about Egan's work but some of the approaches to the issues the stories dealt with were more conventional than I expected. We are even served a Dennett cite.
I also got a general smug and hostile vibe as opposed to the good-natured humour about obscurantists I've come to expect. In one instance, this stuff got so crass as to politically questionable!
Plus a few of the
...more
Kate
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A nice selection of 10 short stories. The Sci-Fi was (as usual with Greg Egan) way over my head! However, there is something in the way Greg writes that makes you feel compelled to finish each story despite not having much of an idea what it's all about! My one criticism is that the protagonist in each story feels like the same person despite there being different ages and genders. I put this down to the stories being written in the first person. Certainly in Zendegi one of the highlights for me ...more
Username
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Most of the stories are excellent. Three of them are less interesting to me: Our Lady of Chernobyl, Chaff, and Transition Dreams. Our Lady of Chernobyl, like Silver Fire, and to a lesser degree, The Plank Dive, deal with obscurantism and ignorance as constrasted to the light of science. It seems to me that Egan dispairs too much in that. Or he was expecting way more than possible from humanity.
Antonis Lamnatos
Interesting ideas on the physical nature of Logic, I felt it constrained itself in the safer what-ifs. The story remained in the safer territory of safeguarding Logic instead of boldly turning it upside down to see what would happen. When the correctness, identity and physicality of actual Logic is at stake, it'd be more interesting to see what its breach would entail.
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1,501 followers
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),
...more

Other books in the series

Collected Stories (3 books)
  • Axiomatic
  • Oceanic
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“Dear Earth-dweller: Please use your BRAIN! As anyone KNOWS in this SCIENTIFIC age, the origin of the races is now WELL UNDERSTOOD! Africans traveled here after the DELUGE from Mercury, Asians from Venus, Caucasians from Mars, and the people of the Pacific islands from assorted asteroids. If you don’t have the NECESSARY OCCULT SKILLS to project rays from the continents to the ASTRAL PLANE to verify this, a simple analysis of TEMPERAMENT and APPEARANCE should make this obvious even to YOU! But please don’t put WORDS into MY mouth! Just because we’re all from different PLANETS doesn’t mean we can’t still be FRIENDS.” 1 likes
“No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze.   I” 0 likes
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