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768 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published January 1, 1996
He wandered over tundra moss and samphire, kedge and grass. Life on Mars. An odd business. Life anywhere, really. Not at all obvious that it should appear. This was something Sax had been thinking about recently. Why was there increasing order in any part of the cosmos, when one might expect nothing but entropy everywhere? This puzzled him greatly. He had been intrigued when Spencer had offered an offhand explanation, over beer one night on the Odessa corniche – in an expanding universe, Spencer had said, order was not really order, but merely the difference between the actual entropy exhibited and the maximum entropy possible. This difference was what humans perceived as order. Sax had been surprised to hear such an interesting cosmological notion from Spencer, but Spencer was a surprising man. Although he drank too much alcohol.
Lying on the grass looking at tundra flowers, one couldn’t help thinking about life. In the sunlight the little flowers stood on their stems glowing with their anthracyins, dense with colour. Ideograms of order. They did not look like a mere difference in entropic levels. Such a fine texture to a flower petal; drenched in light; it was almost as if it were visible molecule by molecule: there a white molecule, there a lavender, there clematis blue. These pointillist dots were not molecules, of course, which were way below visible resolution. And even if molecules had been visible, the ultimate building blocks of the petal were so much smaller that they were hard to imagine – finer than one’s conceptual resolution, one might say.
And then the feeling came over her again, the pre-epileptic aura of the presque vu, the sea glittering, a vast significance suffusing everything, immanent everywhere but just beyond reach, pressing in on things – and with a little pop she got it – that that very aspect of the phenomenon was itself the meaning – that the significance of everything always lay just out of reach, in the future, tugging them forward – that in special moments one felt this tidal tug of becoming as a sensation of sharp, happy anticipation, as she had when looking down at Mars from the Ares, the unconscious mind filled not with the detritus of a dead past but with the unforeseeable possibilities of the live future, ah, yes – anything could happen, anything, anything. And so as the presque vu washed slowly away from her, unseen and yet somehow this time comprehended, she sat back on the bench, full and glowing; here she was, after all, and the potential for happiness would always be in her.