book review: incandescence

I took a break from reading a Mary Shelley book because I needed something with a little less overwroughtness, and Greg Egan’s Incandescence was exactly the right thing to read. It’s about travel and about the joy of doing science.

See, there’s a rock. Inside this rock live a planet’s worth of creatures. They’re sort of collective-minded, gaining satisfaction from conservatively working together in teams. Their world is vaguely known to be a fragment of some larger world in the past but who the fuck knows? They know nothing about the wider universe. The majority of the novel is about these creatures developing the spark of curiosity to develop the geometry needed to save their world.

There’s another line of the story as well, which is about some galactic citizens learning about these aliens. This is where more of the Travel aspects come in, and also how the reader gets a bit of perspective on how fucking weird the place those aliens live is.

In all, this was the kind of science fiction story that seems really pure or something. It’s so about science. Greg Egan disdains people who dismiss it as impenetrable as being to chicken to read a novel with a notebook and pencil to work things out.

This leaves me wondering if they’ve really never encountered a book before that benefits from being read with a pad of paper and a pen beside it, or whether they’re just so hung up on the idea that only non-fiction should be accompanied by note-taking and diagram-scribbling that it never even occurred to them to do this. I realise that some people do much of their reading with one hand on a strap in a crowded bus or train carriage, but books simply don’t come with a guarantee that they can be properly enjoyed under such conditions. – Greg Egan “Anatomy of a Hatchet Job

I read most of the book on a plane without taking notes, but still enjoyed it (enjoyed it less than I did Diaspora, but still). A great book of ideas.

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