The Age of Death ended countless millennia ago. No longer burdened by limited lifespans, the immortal humans who populate inhabited space now have the luxury to travel vast distances effortlessly and to tinker with the intricate mechanics of space time. But one such experiment in quantum physics has had a catastrophic and unanticipated result, creating an enormous, rapidly expanding vacuum - a region of new physics - with the frightening potential to devour countless inhabited solar systems.
Tchicaya abandoned his home world four thousand years ago to travel the universe, freely choosing, as have others of his bent, to endure the hardships of distance and loneliness for the sake of knowledge and experience. Aboard the Rindler, a starship trawling the border of the all consuming novo-vacuum, he feels his endless life has new purpose. For the Rindler is the center for the scientific study the phenomenon - a common ground for Preservationists and Yielders alike, those working to halt and destroy the encroaching worlds-eater…and those determined to investigate its marvels while allowing its growth to continue unchecked. Tchicaya has allied himself firmly with the latter camp.
The passing decades - and inevitable expansion of the void - widen the great rift between the two factions, intensifying what was once simply ideological differences into something more angry, explosive, and dangerous. And the arrival of Tchicaya's fiery first love, Mariama, and her immediate embracing of the Preservationist cause, intensifies an inner turmoil he has been struggling with since his distant childhood. But everything onboard the Rindler - and, ultimately, in the inhabited universe itself - is on the cusp of further cataclysmic change, as the Yielders' explorations threaten to transform discord into violent action and potential xenocide.
For new evidence suggests that something unthinkable is developing at an astounding rate deep within the mysterious, 600-light-years-wide void - something neither Tchicaya and his compatriots nor Mariama and hers could ever have imagined possible: life.
©2013 Greg Egan (P)2013 Audible Inc.
If you can say the phrase "That's just elementary quantum mechanics" with a straight face, you will probably find this book to be a fun (if somewhat predictable) romp through some amusing "big-think" physics concepts, with an admirable level of rigor. (There's no faster-than-light travel, for example.) If you enjoy playing "what-if" with systems of fundamental laws of physics, you'll probably enjoy the twist that Egan comes up with.
However, if you are a little overwhelmed by phrases like "tetravalent graph", "complex spatial dimension", or "superposition state", you may find this pretty heavy going, with less reward in characterization or plot development. The "hook" of this book is the speculation on its universe, while the characters primarily serve as a vehicle to deliver the reader a tour of the author's vision.
As usual, Paul Boehmer's narration is fine, and he serves up the weighty dish of quantum terminology without breaking a sweat.
Greg Eagan is a programmer, but he sure could fool me into thinking he's a theoretical physicist. Really enjoyed the science.
Was looking forward to listening to more of his books. The ones I'm especially interested in are narrated by Adam Epstein. Mr. Epstein has received some very negative reviews. But I REALLY wanted to listed to those books. I thought, "Well he may not be great, but it can't be so bad that I'd not enjoy the book." Listened to samples. He was WORSE than the reviews. (Sorry, Mr. Epstein.) I couldn't even get through the sample, never mind a book! Terrible. I simply cannot buy those other books. I strongly suggest you don't, either.
Enjoyable hard science fiction. It goes off on long descriptions of made up physics that many people say they've found intimidating. Being fluent in theoretical physics certainly makes this book easier to read. A science experiment creates a void that starts destroying the galaxy. Everyone tries to find out how to stop it.
(Before this I read Diaspora. That book is best read with a computer science degree if you want to get it fully. And I found the plot structure to be generally similar. Despite that, they are very different novels with very different settings.)
I think hard science fiction is a bit of a misnomer. It's hard as in difficult, but not hard as in taking fewer liberties with physics.
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