Permutation City is a science fiction novel by the Australian author Greg Egan.
Having liked Egans Quarantine, I was looking forward to reading this one and I was not disappointed. Again Egan has written a fantastic story by grabbing an idea and taking it to the limit.
This time we are in a world where Virtual Reality (VR) is nearly perfected and it is possible to download people's brains in to computers. The only problem is that the technology is very expensive and no matter how much money you have, it's impossible to make VR run faster than one eighteenth the speed of reality. The technique is mostly use by rich people who will rather live on in a VR environment than die. These people keep their money and their power and as the number of rich people that lets their soul live on in the computers (and thereby keep control over their money) grows, there is a growing fear among the ..uh.. undead souls, that the public opinion will turn against them and take away their rights. What they need is a possibility to escape and hide. But how to hide in a computer?
I won't say much more about this story other than that it's different from the other "people live on in the computer" stories that I have read - it has a lot more emphasis on the characters and a lot more on the philosophical side than the usual technology masturbation (not that that can't be fun).
Review by bon
Well, I just finished Permutation City and am pretty upset! This is Egan just hypothesizing all over the place with little going on other than pop ups and some double dealings. A dabble in murder at a few points...not a whole lot else though. You'd think with the hypothetical creation of a few entire worlds Greg would've given us some thicker vegetables to grow in the fertile land of cyberspace and software programs. These guys are living in the reality that only gods dream of where anything can happen. Some things do, but not enough for me. Awww, jeez I'm bummed.
Ya know, I read that first chapter about 2 years ago at a library and thought to myself for the next 12 months "I really have to track that puppy down and read it!". The intro chapter is great. There's some swell parts in the book, but over all hmmm. Hmmmmmph!!!
Give me "Distress" again. That's the book I could hold up like a light in the darkness of volcano ash. Not my bag all that hypothesizing stuff Egan loves to brain fart with. Didn't cut the mustard for me.
Written by TC, 01 June 1999.