The inner sleeve notes proclaim that this book is "The novel that thinks it's a history of philosophy". More or less that is true. Sophie's world centres, initially, around one Sophie who starts to receive strange cards that ask awkward questions like "Who are you?" and "Where does the world come from?". Quickly you learn that a mysterious person is giving Sophie lessons in philosophy - from the ground up starting with the ancient, pre-classic, greeks.
This approach works well and you are quickly drawn into this guided tour through the annals of philosophy. It makes the subject quite approachable and easy to read, something that a lot of philosophy texts quite forget to do. And as such it is a wonderful book. However the approach does suffer a little towards the end, my two major complaints being that the novel, in a degree of haste to wrap the story up, does gloss over the twentith century a bit. And secondly that the artifice of the story begins to win over the goals of the story.
Still these are relatively minor complaints and as a thought
provoking and educative book you can't really go past this work.
A cunning book this one, based on the cover and the initial chapters you might be lulled into thinking that this story is a semi-satirical look at the cyberpunk genre. It has the requisite bleak future with companies gone amok. But what companies! The Mafia running pizza franchises? Governments in full retreat. Cops that accept all major credit card brands and couriers with magnetic harpoons.
Just when you think things have settled down and can't get much stranger, they do. What makes the book unusual is that all this hangs together and subtlely you get used to the incongruity of the world as the major plot takes shape. And wheeee! What a plot it is! Ancient Sumerian myth, world domination and a little Reason.
The idea proposed in this does something that I haven't seen since first reading Iain M. Banks' science fiction books - it takes your breath away. The scope, scale and imagination of it is stunning. Developed beautifully and backed up by judicious application of history the idea hangs together well. Frustratingly the book suffers from the author leaving it open for a sequel. It lacks conclusion, well a satisfying one anyhow.
To be fair there is massive room for the next logical
development of the idea. Without spoiling the book all I shall say
here is that the source of the digital version of the message
should give clues to where the next book could easily go.
Certainly for it's flaws I don't regret getting this one, a book
well worth having.
I liked the premise of this, so I actually bought it instead of my more normal 'wait for it to hit the library' tactic. Fortunately the blurb on the back cover was correct enough that the book was worth it - however don't fully trust that blurb. It gets the whole tone of the book quite wrong, I think. The implication is that this is a story about the chasing down of a rogue 'chiphead' who likes to kill.
To be fair the story is partially about that. To me however that is just the backstory against which the more interesting and deeper story is exposed. In the book J.R. proposes a brief burst of technical gobble-de-gook to explain the chips themselves and then gets on with showing the effects of the chips on the people who use them, the people who chase those who use them and America as a whole.
One very nice touch is the idea of Pelton's Syndrome, a degenerative disorder caused by the use of the chips. Indeed the reasons for this disorder are explored quite thoroughly and resolved satifactorily. The book does a nice job of being convincing on the reasons for the syndrome and it's effects.
Throw in a dash of government conspiracy, a 'dirty' border war with south america/mexico and a general dislike of federal officials and you have a quite engrossing book. Worth reading at least twice, which is not something I normally do with books either.
I look forward to seeing more of this author's work.
It seems to have become the rage to explore the idea of realities constructed from mathetical premises. Where Greg Egans work is a little more novel is that the people who create the alternate universes never know if they succeeded or not. They simply launch it and hope.
A brief blurb indicates that Greg works in alternate steps as a writer and a programmer, and it shows. The sections detailing the computer environments work well and a fairly good understanding of the limitations of programs is not only explained well but used as an integral part of the plot. Technically the book is stunning, nice ideas well based in the realities of what computers can and can't easily acheive.
Where it falls down is in the characters. In the end they play second fiddle to the ideas being explored and the story suffers a little for that. Personally at least two major characters could have been trimmed out without loss to the story and allowing more room for character development.
Still an interesting book fairly well executed and worth reading. With a little more work on the character side of things I think this author will become quite a literary force.