cover image The Best of Greg Egan

The Best of Greg Egan

Greg Egan. Subterranean, $45 (736p) ISBN 978-1-59606-942-8

Egan (Perihelion Summer) poses questions about the future of humanity and daydreams and warns about as-yet unrealized scientific developments in this hard science fiction collection. The stories are arranged chronologically and begin in 1990; early works “Learning to Be Me” and “Closer” feature a device which, when embedded in the human brain, learns from and eventually replaces that organ, effectively granting immortality. “Bit Players,” “3-adica,” and “Instantiation,” all from the 2010s, feature self-aware digital characters forging their way to independent existence. Though the technical math and science can prove daunting, accessible action elements in such stories as the particularly satisfying “Luminous” and “Dark Integers,” about the weaponization of math itself, provide a nice balance. Egan’s talent for creating well-drawn characters shines in “Oracle,” which imagines a debate between stand-ins for Alan Turing and C.S. Lewis, and “Zero for Conduct,” in which a young Afghan woman invents “the world’s first room-temperature superconductor.” Although demanding, this doorstopper will prove rewarding for anyone interested in technology’s role in shaping the world. (Nov.)