Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes, an SF novel will hit you in the gut and speak a little math at you and then scamper away, tittering at its cleverness.
Other times, an SF novel will not only hit you in the gut but hit you in the pride and nads and stand over you, asking you if you want some more. Maybe it'll call you Susan regardless of your sex.
After reading Schild's Ladder, I have to say this is one of those Other times.
I feel like I just read a hardcore Stephen Baxter novel that just had a massive overhaul on the math and the editor not only said, "there may be just a tad too much scalable extra-dimensional geometry, pre-assumptive quantum physics, and thoroughly alien human cultures" just before he (or she) threw up his (or her) hands and said... "Screw it. I'll check for grammar. The rest is all for a team of postdocs devoted to theoretical physics."
Does this mean I hated it?
MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA hell no. I loved it. Every single mind-blowing second of it. Just because some of it went over my head didn't mean I didn't LOVE the imagery, the bleeding-edge creativity of having our characters LIVE in this nearly incomprehensible post-and-re-physical humanity.
Examples: whole societies based on checksumming yourself because you're all software. Interchangeability between getting a body and going back in the software. 20 thousand years of murderless living and whole societies giving into their darker natures by telling fibs to cryogenic travelers about just how the world has changed, unwilling to let them know that we've all moved on because we think it's funny. Or how so many of us have tailored truly exotic sex organs (either software or physical) to be compatible with our partners... literally ONLY compatible to our partners. :)
Fascinating? Yeah, but not half as fascinating as the actual plot-driver. Expanding space and life living at a hugely accelerated rate and at a VERY small quantum level. Is it out to destroy us? Should we destroy it? Preserve it? Study it? It's out to eat our populated centers, but WE MADE IT. Accidental life... and perhaps intelligent. :)
Very good stuff here. Definitely designed to draw out only your A-Game. No punches are thrown and no one is talked down to. You will either sink or swim. :)
What a pleasure!
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