The Best Of Greg Egan by Greg Egan (book review).

May 26, 2022 | By | Reply More

The Best Of Greg Egan’ by Greg Egan is a collection of what he considers his twenty best Science Fiction short stories, novelettes or novellas published since 1990. Each story explores the implications of a big concept on human and not so human lives in detailed world settings.

Many of these concepts are based on fundamental mathematical or computational ideas that Egan de-codifies and personalises for the enjoyment of the reader. For instance, in ‘Unstable Orbits In The Space Of Lies’, he lets us emotionally experience the effects of the mathematical concept of strange attractors that were the mathematical rage of the early 1990s.

The stories are presented in the chronological order of their publication in Interzone, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Eidolon, Twelve Tomorrows, Subterranean Online and We see Egan grow in writing from presenting fresh ideas in their visceral rawness to producing emotionally rounded and satisfying stories.

Like all anthologies, a reader prefers some stories to others depending on individual tastes. Those that tended towards the horror end of the Science Fiction spectrum, ‘Chaff’ and ‘The Silver Fire’ left me cold. If there is a favourite among them, it is ‘Oceanic’ because it deals with futuristic living at sea, a rare setting these days for Science Fiction.

Space Opera is noticeable by its absence, which makes this anthology stand out from so much of Science Fiction. There are no spacecraft, though there is the occasional beyond-Earth-verse to be dealt with in a few stories.

Some stories form mini-sequences: ‘Luminous’ followed by ‘Dark Integers’ deals with the idea of maths laws changing in different parts of the universe; the trio of ‘Bit Players’, ‘3-adica’ and ‘Instantiation’ explores how computers can realistically generate people.

The essence of this book is perhaps best identified using a phrase Egan uses in ‘Luminous’: ‘Humanities students are so myopic.’ He takes us way beyond the normal experiences of Science Fiction and most people into strange worlds and yet makes them feel so believable.

Rosie Oliver

May 2022

(pub: Gollancz SF Masterworks, 2021. 729 pages paperback. Price: £14.99. ISBN: 978-1-473-23229-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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