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Incandescence by [Egan, Greg]
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Incandescence Kindle Edition

1.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Kindle Edition, 10 Jun 2011
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Length: 301 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

A million years from now, the galaxy is divided between the vast, cooperative meta-civilisation known as the Amalgam, and the silent occupiers of the galactic core known as the Aloof. The Aloof have long rejected all attempts by the Amalgam to enter their territory, but have permitted travellers to take a perilous ride as unencrypted data in their communications network, providing a short-cut across the galaxy's central bulge.

When Rakesh encounters a traveller, Lahl, who claims she was woken by the Aloof on such a journey and shown a meteor full of traces of DNA, he accepts her challenge to try to find the uncharted world deep in the Aloof's territory from which the meteor originated.

Roi and Zak live inside the Splinter, a world of rock that swims in a sea of light they call the Incandescence. Living on the margins of a rigidly organised society, they seek to decipher the subtle clues that can reveal the true nature of the Splinter. In fact, the Splinter is orbiting a black hole, which is about to capture a neighbouring star, wreaking havoc. As the signs of danger grow, Roi, Zak, and a growing band of recruits struggle to understand and take control of their fate. Meanwhile, Rakesh is gradually uncovering their remote history, and his search for the lost DNA world ultimately leads him to a civilisation trapped in cultural stagnation, and startling revelations about the true nature and motives of the Aloof.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1008 KB
  • Print Length: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (10 June 2011)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group (AU)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0053YQDLS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #145,387 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition
Am giving 1star in anticipation since I do not know where the book is !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 3.3 out of 5 stars 92 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the far future, your life may depend upon what you think... 28 September 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like Egan's books. This is an original plot set in the far, far future and removed to a different part of the galaxy, involving another species and their awakening to critical thought. For the most part I enjoyed the novelty and the development, and he did a brilliant job with several aspects off the future technology. Two warnings though: 1) Greg really delves into descriptions of the geometry problems and math the creatures are developing and after awhile it really becomes too much and tedious, and 2) there are two parallel plotlines in the book, but it is totally unclear how they relate to one another or tie up at any point. In fact, they don't - I re-read whole portions of the book to see if I missed it but could not find any alignment (e.g. the central characters in one plotline are aided by or inherit/learn something from the characters in the 2nd plotline). If it's there it is so subtle I did not get it at all, hence the missing 5th star.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More story, less physics 28 January 2016
By Brashboy - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Impressive gamble, this. Make over half the book a blow-by-blow description of a non-human, non-technology society (ArkMakers) working out the laws of physics in a literal vacuum, orbiting a neutron star (they communicate by drumming). And then use non-standard words for the most common concepts, like up/down, ahead/behind, warm/cold. I know that some readers liked this, and I tried hard to stick with it, but increasingly found myself scrolling forward.

Sentient populations elsewhere have moved to a post-human, or should I say post-body, way of life. One can exist as software, or pop out of the computer into a body. None of which is explained. Want to visit a world 8,000 LY away? No problem -- just email yourself there and grab a body on arrival. Obviously, they are not relying on Microsoft products. People can live a really, really long time doing this. So, who cares?

More than half the book focuses on the ArkMakers and their science projects in mind-numbing detail. I mean, at the level of launching a smooth stone and carefully noting its trajectory to see if it is straight or curved. Will they be saved? Will they be brought into the disk (of the Milky Way) and its society? Will the beings trying to help them be allowed back into the disk (this was up in the air)? We don't know because the book just stops. It doesn't really end, because there is no ending; it just stops. Clearly, once the physics and engineering project was over, the author saw no more story there. And there is no sequel that I could find. There are a few stories set in the Incandescence universe but none seem to be related.

I demand a story in my novels. Watching technological primitives slowly discover the laws of physics is not really a story. Well, it is, but it is a long, disguised physics lesson basically intended to demonstrate the author's premise that a pre-technology society could discover the laws of physics and even quantum physics without telescopes and other sophisticated equipment, given the right environment. I and many other readers found it less than involving and it doesn't get better, because the science gets more complex the further in we go.

3 stars because it is Greg Egan.
1.0 out of 5 stars textbookish, utopian essays, genes for boredom, no story 4 September 2016
By Robert Shuler - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Egan would have us believe that in a galaxy full of immortals with near-infinite power, none are plotting, none are rogue, there are no conflicts, and there is no security on the network even on hacked interfaces with an unknown civilization controlling the bulge of the galaxy which refuses to make contact. It turns out the Aloof may indeed have pulled a fast one, created an artificial person at the interface, but nothing comes of it other than a little worry, and indeed artificial persons abound.

Where does this lead? To a very disappointing end. After trudging through a dull first half and finally getting a bit interested, if only to see where the author was headed with the two story tracks, they don't intersect as expected and neither has much of the feel of a resolution.

The author skips almost to the end of time to envision 3 utopian civilizations: the Amalgum in the galaxy's disc, the Aloof in the central bulge, and the descendents of the Arkbuilders who had at one time a very high tech but not interstellar travel. It reprises with a different conclusion Clark's The Star, and weakly reprises without the conflict Asimov's Nightfall. Egan does not seem willing to write about normal human emotions or to think that drama and conflict and the ingredients of a story generally might exist in the far future. For him there is either the communistic pursuit of useful daily labor, without boredom or ambition, or the pursuit of knowledge. However, he writes this book about a time when the acquisition of knowledge is complete and that motivation is frustrated. Not only is that a problem for one of the main characters, Rakesh, but it turns out the entire bulge (the Aloof) simply doesn't interact with anyone because there is nothing new for them in it. They are sleepwalking.

To Egan, immortality is having a backup which can be activated in case you don't return from a 20,000 year journey. There is an ethical issue with running a simulation which is sufficiently detailed that it might actually "feel" something. And human consciousness can be shrunk to a sub-millimeter sized avatar with no problem at all. He can't envision any civilization that is not a utopia, completely free of politics, corporations, anything but personal whim it seems.

All this might provide an interesting backdrop for a story, if a story were present. Certainly HG Wells had no trouble making up stories in this kind of backdrop. Egan interleaves two story tracks. One is that of Rakesh who decides to go looking for some apparently lost DNA-based life in the bulge, apparently but not overtly at the invitation of the Aloof (they don't really talk to anyone, but allow traffic through their networks). Travel is by copying ones self as information and modulating it on a gamma ray beam. It takes no time for the traveler, but for the rest of the universe thousands of years go by. Egan does not address the issue of whether the copied traveler is really the same person at all.

The other is that of Roi and friends, small genetically engineered crab-like people engineered to live in a vacuum on a rock in the accretion disk of a neutron star or black hole. One of them becomes curious about the pattern of weights and mostly without being able to see outside their rock, they reason out the properties of curved space-time gravity-as-geometry, as in General Relativity. At the end Egan has the gall to recommend the most complex and unfriendly text ever written on the subject. Not any of the many more accessible introductions.

I conclude that Egan is not quite human, and cannot write a story of interest to humans. I was very let down. He just quit writing abruptly where I was expecting a conclusion. Usually I do not give a one-star review if I willingly finish a book. This one was headed toward 3 stars until I turned the page and there was the afterword, with the silly textbook recommendation. I felt like I had already read the textbook (I mean Egan's novelistic textbook, not MTW, which incidentally I have read and in parts it is more entertaining than Egan, despite being obtuse) and was waiting for a story. This is not a novel at all. Just two long intertwined essays from a bored physicist with no human interests.
5.0 out of 5 stars Morality versus Scientific discovery. Which is most important? 15 October 2016
By D. Lockwood - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this. Two views of the search for knowledge. Each from opposite ends of the spectrum. The story alternates between a seeker from the outer rim of the galaxy and his companion and the residents of a relic space vessel in the edges of the grip of a Neutron star at the galaxy's core.
The players from the galactic rim are our far future descendants as well as other sapient species well over a million years in our future. They have explored every speck of the galaxy (aside from the core), have unlimited life spans, been everywhere and done everything. The race captured in the grip of the Neutron star has been genetically engineered to be passive, inquisitive and dedicated to t he work they do to preserve the species. This defense mechanism was perpetrated to permit the race to survive the eons of isolation and limited environment in which they must exist. The "hook" is that they were also engineered to respond to drastic changes in their environment by having a very few individuals retain the capacity to enquire and progress. This story involves the response of this species to the threat of a destabilized orbit about the Neutron star and the moral dilemma of the outer rim visitors of exactly what they should do intervene or not. A really deep situation and no pat answers are provided. I loved it!
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing hard SF takes no shortcuts in walking us through a preindustrial civilization's dawn of modern physics. 10 May 2016
By st - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The trouble with post-Singularity stories is that once you have removed all real danger from the stakes of any situation it becomes trickier to make the characters and the reader really care about something. Greg Egan does it nicely with a small-scale drama set against the grand background of a nicely sketched galactic civilization. Of course, "small-scale" in this context still turns out to be fairly mind-blowing, since Egan has constructed an awesomely intricate world around the twin post-Singularity conceits of "people abstracted to information" and "matter however you want it."

Narratively it moves along nicely, more or less in parallel linear stories. Egan weaves smoothly between larger plot elements and workmanlike characterization; in other words, his writing doesn't get in the way of his own plot and ideas (a ubiquitous danger in SF). The passages amounting to tutorials on the consequences of General Relativity are illuminating if you care to go through them, but glossing over the details preserves the story structure, so don't worry too much. The main structural gripe I have would be a slight spoiler to describe, but let's say that I feel the book deserved one or two chapters after the end to make the story whole.