the state of my knowledge about humanit(ies|y) is loathsome
Yeah, no worries. To be fair, there is a fair amount of overlap. I’ve read tons of sociological and anthropological works, and I’m sure they read some history stuff in their departments.
In theory, we’re all supposed to be interdisciplinary now, but the truth is that many of us just sort of dig into our positions and sneer at all the other humanities as “not doing it right”. Since my field is sort of cultural, I end up at lots of conferences with english, American studies, musicologists, and sociologists. We all get along famously at the PCA conferences.
More like Egan^2.
Either of them is a better writer than Egan by far.
Sterling is a better and Rucker maybe a slightly better stylist. But Egan’s more mind-blowing, IMHO. All three are go-to authors for me though.
Well, except that while he’s a great idea guy, he’s not as good of an actual wordsmith.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed plenty of Egan’s work but, out of the three, he’s the only one who has had a book I’ve put down out of sheer boredom and never returned to.
With Sterling and Rucker, when they have a new novel out, I read it within a week or so. I haven’t even read Egan’s last trilogy.
Incandescence in inaccessible even by Egan standards, not in the sense of being hard to grok (it’s arguably one of the easier that way), but in the sense of dragging it’s heels. I first read Egan in high school, his debut novel An Unusual Angle. Although I was blown away by the weirdness of it, it was so clunky that I gave up on him for years until I read Diaspora. The appeal for me is that he manages to make esoteric math and science into amazing story ideas. I’ll certainly grant that his prose isn’t that impressive, but he can honestly get away with it with me if he keeps up the sensawunda.
Why have I never heard of this novel?
My favorite of his is Diaspora, followed by Schild’s Ladder.
I do have a soft spot for his AI assembled from scanned parts in Iran though. That was a better than normal novel for him when it came to writing.
I haven’t read his Clockwork Rocket books so I don’t know if they’re good or not. I have them in ebook on my kindle though.
P.S. He’s a real mensch too. He gave up writing for years because he was working on refugee rights in Australia instead.
Zendegi was definitely one of his best. I even bought the hardcover, and I rarely do that.
I honestly don’t know if you’d enjoy the Clockwork Rocket trilogy. I promise this isn’t a pun, but it has a slow take-off and the character dynamics, while characteristically brilliant in their reliance on bizarre mechanics, don’t feel very organic. As usual though, there’s really nothing like it when it comes to the ideas at the center of the story.
I remember reading Diaspora and being just blown away by the way he described the characters altering their minds to perceive higher dimensions. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to a visceral grasp of something fundamentally beyond human grasp. For comparison, Rucker’s Spaceland is a fun ride, but while the four-dimensional physics is rigorous, I didn’t really feel it the way Egan took me on a tour of five dimensions.
Reading that last paragraph and realizing, yup, I’m a colossal nerd.
Egan is so private, which I actually admire, that I only say this based on his writing, but I get the feeling from his characters that he isn’t much of a people person (with the caveat that it’s always perilous to analyze someone based on their fiction). But yeah, he’s been a proponent of human rights and all good science journalism for years, which adds to my admiration for the man.
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