cover image Dispersion


Greg Egan. Subterranean, $40 (160p) ISBN 978-1-59606-989-3

The title of this remarkably resonant hard SF novella from Egan (Perihelion Summer) refers to a disease that wreaks havoc through a low-tech world whose inhabitants are born into one of six fractions, parallel but incompatible planes of existence. For a decade, Dispersion, an inter-fractional infection, has resulted in people absorbing and assimilating “detritus” from fractions other than their own, dragging parts of their bodies into those alternate planes, usually with fatal results. Egan depicts this self-isolating world through the medical research of Alice Pemberthy—whose parents came from two different fractions—as she struggles to navigate the eccentricities of each fraction and find a cure for the disease. Egan’s worldbuilding is nuanced and imaginative and he expertly dramatizes the relationship between the fractions by showing fires, floods, and assassination attempts that originate in one fraction and manifest invisibly, but dangerously, in another. This is a prescient parable for a time of global pandemic and social distancing. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Aug.)