Now Reading: Running With the Demon by Terry Brooks.
Just Finished: Permutation City by Greg Egan.
Permutation City is a story about one Paul Durham who may be a scientist, insurance salesman, or lunatic. Scientist, because he has experimented upon virtualized Copies of his own personality. Lunatic, because he believes that he was once one of these Copies. This story is also about one Maria Deluca, artist and Autoverse dabbler. The Autoverse is a type of cellular automaton engine that simulates a simplified physics at the atomic level. Maria is commissioned by Durham to design a set of parameters for the Autoverse which could lead to the evolution of life within its matrix. And then things get weird.
Permuation City has won several awards. The author later wrote another book, Diaspora with similar themes, which I enjoyed. However, I did not, unfortunately, enjoy this book as much as I was lead to believe that I would.
First of all, the pacing was funky. Act one seemed to take two thirds of the book, act two the remaining third, and act three, a few pages. I felt that, after a certain point, I was reading along just to find those few pages.
Next, I just did not buy Durham’s dust hypothesis. (Though Maria seemed to accept it, or at least the possibility of it being true.) This required just a bit too much suspension of disbelief to allow me to enjoy the story, though it certainly made Maria the more sympathetic character.
I think I see what the author was hinting at. That somehow the observer effect can create a self-perpetuating universe. That Schrödinger’s Cat might not only decide its own fate, but somehow decollapse the waveform of the exterior universe in the process. That our universe might not only be like a Turing machine, but might also contain multiple other universes depending on where the “tape” is started.
Interesting? Yes. But… I feel as though this story might have been more suited to a short story or novella, perhaps with the entirety of the first act reduced to a few pages of exposition therein.