Monday, 2 May 2011

Reviewlette - Diaspora by Greg Egan

We're at the end of the thirteenth century and mankind has divided into three. Fleshers: naturally evolving Homo sapiens, gleisner robots: machines with human minds, and those in the polises: human personalities living in communities run by huge supercomputers.

We begin with the birth of Yatima, an intelligence created among the communities hosted in computers. The story follows its birth, introduction to the others in the polis,  its meeting with other types - gleisner and flesher - and ultimately follows Yatima as it searches this and other universes for a place safe from the natural disasters that threaten Earth.

The first part - Yatima's birth - had the old programmer in me itching to create an AI on my laptop. Again. (One attempt, in 1985 on an Apricot Xi, took seven weeks and resulted in something that could distinguish between music and not-music. Yup. Really useful!)

The book is chock full of ideas. Mr Egan certainly seems to know his stuff - though at just over ten years old, some of the ideas are starting to look a little dated.

If you don't mind a bit of science, it's a good read. Had me transported for hours. Though the end tended to peter out a little. The last revelation is - deliberately it seems - subdued.

If you're a hard sf fan you'll enjoy it.

Read it. Let me know what you think.

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