As a whole this book is a bit of a non-event, and seems to introduce some ideas for their own sake, particularly because the plot contains virtually no dramatic tension whatsoever. It’s main interest to me became the handling of some specific ideas.

Permutation City provides a setting where technology has developed enough to allow the uploading of a person’s consciousness to a virtual reality. It’s now an old idea, essentially as far back as Gibson, but Egan explores notions of what virtual lives, and possibly the idea of a singularity, will mean for the consciousness’ captured.

In this treatment of the concept of virtual consciousness there were three ideas that really captured me. First virtual consciousness as a means to drop oneself into hell, purgatory, or heaven in the same vein as Jacob’s Ladder. Second the possibility of falling into solopism, although Egan makes this particular solopism an Eden story. Third and finally was the idea of Matroshka worlds and consciousness’, something that should be familiar to fans of the Matrix

Problematically these two worlds, and the world of the main protagonists, only overlap casually, and only really act to complement one obliquely.

So overall this is an interesting read, but would need something really dramatic to make it a more compelling read. Perhaps ninjas?

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