Includes transgendered protagonists.
An orphan has been created inside the community of conscious software known as Konishi Polis, an electronic infant without either identity or family. Free to explore the vast polis library, the orphan develops a system of inquiry, assembles a body of knowledge, and makes its first contact with its fellow citizens. But even as its yearning to understand the world blossoms into the triumph of self-awareness, the orphan remains naive: for even in a society devoid of flesh, consciousness itself carries with it the potential for both great joy and unendurable suffering. The orphan has a lot to learn.
And thus, our introduction to the world of Diaspora: a complex smorgasbord of hard sci-fi so nerd-gasmically delicious it left me grinning like an idiot. Reading this book was like eating at a restaurant where I could sample any dish on the menu—and every one of them was a favorite. From computational algorithms and the physics of neutron stars, to developmental psychology and evolutionary biology, I was completely in my element. And even when I wasn't, I just followed the orphan's lead and "gave in to the overload and simply let the data flow through" me. I'm only a dabbler when it comes to mathematics, but I still got a kick out of seeing the concepts of Euler and Riemann and Gauss explored in depth—and then expanded into completely fictional theories.
Egan's outrageously fantastic extrapolations about the distant future were even better. Not only does his epic story leap through time and space to scrutinize the inner workings of the universe, but he postulates alien worlds so wonderfully bizarre they were an instant tonic to the commonplace human-in-a-lizard-mask that predominates in sci-fi.
I absolutely and completely loved it. I mean, even if he'd only written the book as an excuse to use the word bremsstrahlung in context, I wouldn't have cared.
But lest my geeky enthusiasm overshadow the book's true complexity, let me also say that I loved the characters. Fleshy or otherwise, they encompassed a wide spectrum of human emotion as they ventured into the tangled depths of personal discovery and scientific adventure. I especially liked Orlando, his painful trials encompassing so much of what still consumes our attention in the 21st century. But even the purely electronic polis citizens were well-developed and three-dimensional (okay, sometimes they were five-dimensional, but you know what I mean).
Uncluttered by decorative jargon, Diaspora pursues the limitations of technology and human consciousness with a childlike wonder, illuminating both the awe-inspiring majesty of the universe and the strange immortal beauty of mathematics. Despite its dizzying intellectual speculation, my pleasure was just as visceral as mental. A truly outstanding read.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. Please attribute this work to "Finder at GLBT Fantasy Fiction Resources." Linkbacks are always appreciated.