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Download Dark Integers And Other Stories epub

by Greg Egan

Greg Egan's first new collection in a decade contains five stories, set in three worlds. In "Luminous," two mathematicians searching for a flaw in the structure of arithmetic find themselves pitted against a ruthless arms manufacturer. In "Dark Integers," their discovery has become even more dangerous, as they struggle to prevent a war between two worlds capable of mutual annihilation. "Riding the Crocodile" chronicles a couple's epic endeavor a million years from now to bridge the divide between the meta-civilization known as the Amalgam and the reclusive Aloof. "Glory," set in the same future, tells of two archaeologists striving to decipher the artifacts of an ancient civilization. In the Hugo-winning "Oceanic," a boy is inducted into a religion that becomes the center of his life, but as an adult he must face evidence that casts a new light on his faith.
Download Dark Integers And Other Stories epub
ISBN: 1596062193
ISBN13: 978-1596062191
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Short Stories & Anthologies
Author: Greg Egan
Language: English
Publisher: Far Territories (May 5, 2009)
Pages: 232 pages
ePUB size: 1242 kb
FB2 size: 1893 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 807
Other Formats: lit doc txt doc

This is Greg Egan's first book since 2002, and his first short story collection for a decade. It was worth waiting for. There are five longish stories in this collection, including the previously published Luminous and its sequel Dark Integers, two stories set in the far future world of the Amalgam (the setting for Egan's upcoming novel Incandescence) and the award-winning Oceanic.

Although there are a good many Egan stories that have yet to be collected, it was worth reprising Luminous in this collection because the title story has more impact when you have Luminous fresh in your mind. Together they make an exciting double. Not many writers could take two stories about the most abstract of mathematical concepts and turn them into such thrilling reading, but Egan has done it really successfully here.

The standout story in the collection is Oceanic. Although the science vs religion debate is far from a new theme, it remains fertile ground for thought-provoking SF. Oceanic deals with the nature of faith and does it in a poignant way. Although science eventually proves to be the more compelling belief system for the young protagonist, it's done without malice and without smugness. It's a wonderful story.

For me, the Amalgam stories were less engaging, though still fascinating enough to have me looking forward to the new novel.

Egan's reputation for intelligent, ultra-hard SF with a philosophical edge will be enhanced by this new collection. For lovers of literary SF that stretches the imagination, it's a must. And you don't have to be physicist or a mathematician to appreciate them. If, like me, you're unschooled in these disciplines, Egan will help you to get your head around some pretty mind-bending concepts without dumbing them down or blinding you with science. That's quite a feat. And Egan is quite a writer!
I am a Greg Egan fan from way back. It is absolutely ludicrous that this Hugo and Campbell award-winning author, who has written some of the most engaging and challenging science fiction novels and stories to be found anywhere, is almost nowhere to be found on the shelves of the chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, while the shelves are dripping with soft-porn vampire novels and Heinlein ripoffs. Their buyers should be shot.

Anyway, the stories collected in this volume are "Luminous", "Riding the Crocodile", "Dark Integers", "Glory", and "Oceanic." This is a relatively small number of stories -- it's certainly not an omnibus of Egan's work, or even a "best-of," although these are longish stories. If you want to dig deeper into Egan's stories, I recommend the collections "Axiomatic" (older) and "Luminous" (newer). If you buy those in addition to this book, you'll wind up with two copies of "Luminous," the story, but they don't overlap other than that. It is shameful that so much of his work is out of print, but you ought to be able to find these two collections used.

"Luminous" and "Dark Integers" are set in the same world-line, in which it is discovered that some of the fundamental mathematical properties of the universe can be altered by doing computer-driven proofs using one chain of reasoning versus another -- in other words, the actual set of provable mathematics is malleable depending on your starting point, and not just necessarily incomplete, as Godel showed. This is a fascinating conceit, a bit like the idea that manufacturing a new molecule, or a new isomer, may be hard to do the first time, but once it is manufactured, it can easily be replicated elsewhere in the world because somehow the rules of reality have shifted. Whether either of these conceits is factually plausible above the quantum scale is hard to say, but it is thought-provoking, and that's what Egan's fiction does best. They even become grim and thrilling, like the best spy stories! Egan is great at turning a very abstract premise into a gripping human-centered story. I read both of these originally in Asimov's, but it is nice to have them in one place.

"Riding the Crocodile" and "Glory" are set in the world of his next novel, Incandescence. I wound up making myself late for work this morning because I got engaged in "Riding the Crocodile." The setup for that story that in world that has achieved pretty much the penultimate level of technology, a couple that has experienced ten thousand subjective years together is flirting with suicide because they can find no more to look forward to, until they settle on the idea of trying to make contact with the Aloof -- a civilization that seems to inhabit the galactic core. But the Aloof won't communicate with anyone, hence the name; all probes sent in are carefully bounced out unharmed. In fact, it isn't really clear if there are still sentient beings remaining in there, or just their automated defenses.

When Egan creates a world, he doesn't mess around -- he does his homework! (See his web site for some insight into what I mean). In this he is a bit like some of the best hard science fiction writers from yesteryear, like Robert L. Forward and Hal Clement, although Egan is much more "balls-to-the-wall!" "Riding the Crocodile" involves relativistic velocities, encryption, and data networking, but it is primarily a human story about the two characters trying to decide how to engage with a world that is driving them mad with ennui.

"Glory" is again a story about two people facing the universe, but this time the set-up involves one of the most bizarre but scientifically feasible spacecraft imaginable, and a head-on approach to a first contact scenario that results in another set of ethical dilemmas. "Glory" is up for another Hugo award and seems likely to win it.

"Oceanic" is his previous Hugo award-winning story about an alternative sexuality on an alien world. It is also excellent, although a little disturbing and not for children. Oh, and not for close-minded fundamentalist religious persons of any type. I also read this story in Asimov's, although again it is nice to have a more permanent book.

I'm removing half a point because, on the subject of permanence, I'm not terribly impressed with this hardcover. After receiving some recent Charles Stross hardcovers put out by Golden Gryphon press and Philip K. Dick's volume from Library of America, I am spoiled -- these two presses show that it is possible to manufacture small, durable hardcover books with _sewn_ bindings. Dark Integers is glued, like most so-called hardcover books produced these days. It feels sturdy enough, but I'm sick of this trend towards cheap binding.

The other half a point is because of the slipcover design. It is an embarrassment. It looks like it is trying to be evocative, even erotic, with arms and legs and what appear to be Curta calculators (look them up!) over some kind of logo, but why do the limbs appear to be amputated, and what's with the blue floating brain? (Note: there are no giant blue floating brains or amputated limbs to speak of in these stories). I was embarrassed to have my co-workers see this book cover. Even an abstract fractal or a cliched rocket ship or alien landscape with three moons would be far more attractive than this depressing Photoshop train wreck. Note to publisher: people who read science fiction may, believe it or not, still have taste. Egan deserves better! Don't judge this book by its cover!
Interesting but too short. I wished the main short stories - Illumination and Dark Integers - were built-up more.