A Review of Permutation City

Permutation CityPermutation City by Greg Egan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I know Permutation City is well thought of. I know it won a major award. I know it’s got over 1700 ratings on Goodreads with a 4.07 average (out of 5), which is pretty good. And I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I made it through 122 pages and gave up. I found it boring, slow moving, dead, with flat characters, and a plot that’s just rubbish. It’s *supposed* to be a kind of cyberpunk novel where people create Copies of themselves before they die, so their digitized lives continue on forever while they (sometimes) die and yet strangely also sometimes are alive to view their Copies hard at work inside a computer world. I must admit to feeling rather stupid, because I just didn’t GET the book at times. For instance, are the people dead or not? And how does one make a digital copy of themselves anyway? That’s never explained. It’s my primary complaint with cyberpunk novels. One I couldn’t finish two months ago called The Heaven Virus involved downloading yourself to a computer chip. How exactly is this accomplished? This book is considered by its readers to be a “hard” sci fi novel. Surely, a hard sci fi writer can come up with a compelling explanation for this process, right? Wrong. The major failing of most cyberpunk novels for me. The thing I hated about this book is, I’m not a biochemist, nor do I ever want to be, yet a third of the novel deals with creating a virtual reality-kind of new world via biochemistry, and it was BORING to read about petri dishes and atoms and all that blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t find one likeable character in the novel either. It’s a boring and distasteful world Egan creates here, and I will probably take some flak for not shoveling heaps of praise on this book like everyone else in the universe, but I thought it was just not very good. And pretentious. Egan hides his lack of plot with philosophical discussions of reality and what constitutes reality, and it’s deep for some. To me, it was rather fluffy. Like a college creative writing paper someone turned in for a grade. It got its good grade, but I wasn’t the teacher grading it. The only interesting thing about the book for me was Egan’s anticipation of cloud computing some years before it became a reality. That’s about it. I’ll probably sell my copy to a used bookstore. I have no use for it. Some people will obviously like this book, but I can’t recommend it at all. Very disappointing….

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2 thoughts on “A Review of Permutation City

  1. southernhon

    Sounds to me like it was too much analyzing and not enough explanation. Sorry you didn’t like the book. You certainly give a book much more time than I do!


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