Matthew Gatheringwater's Reviews > Axiomatic

Axiomatic by Greg Egan
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really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction-and-fantasy

Who are you, really? It isn't always easy to tell, especially when you live in a society where 18-year-olds routinely have their heads scooped out like melons and replace their brains with computers. Sure, the computer does everything the brain did and it is less likely to malfunction, but what if something does go wrong, just every now and then?

This is the premise of one of an interesting collection of stories by Greg Egan. Most of the stories have something to do with the way technology shapes our consciousness and identity. Sometimes the technology--like a simulated brain--seems less a fully imagined extrapolation of current technology than a necessary placeholder in a thought exercise but, in other stories, you get the sense that someone will have invented what you're reading about during the time you've been suspending your disbelief. This was all the more impressive to me when I realized most of these stories were written in the early nineties and I'm only now getting around to reading them in 2009.

Egan's stories lack much of the wonder and awe I enjoy in reading about the possible future, but they are probably more believable for all that. He takes a subtle and low-key approach. The narrator of the stories is not usually the person I think would be the most interesting, for example, but the narrator is always sincere and believable. Egan's characters' choices sometimes seem arbitrary and their motivations are not always explained, but then most living people strike me that way, too. By the time I finished reading these stories, I didn't feel Egan's imagined future was the one I'd choose for myself, but it probably was going to be similar to the one I'd end up with.

Some favorites in the collection:
Blood Sisters: differences between identical twins reveal a problem in medical ethics

Axiomatic: a great be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale involving the ability to change one's beliefs

The Moat: I liked the subtlety of this story, the way horror becomes yet another bit of everyday life we'd like to change and can't

Unstable Orbits in the Space of Lies: Here, in narrative form, is the feeling of what it was like to maintain a little intellectual integrity amidst the bizzaro syncretism of a Unitarian Universalist seminary. If only I'd read it before wasting three years of my life and $54,000.
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Reading Progress

December 10, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
January 1, 2009 – Finished Reading

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