The Best of Greg Egan, by Greg Egan

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is a large and fairly comprehensive volume of short stories. For anyone who wants a view of what Greg Egan is up to in his work, this is an extremely good selection of What Greg Egan Is Up To, a cross-section, a sampler. I talk about hard SF a lot in various configurations, and Greg Egan is one of the people who’s aiming at doing it, not just moving other people’s furniture but building his own configurations of hard SF futures, nerdy ideas and the humans that poke at them.

Ideas are Egan’s strength, and it’s fun to watch him turn some of them over and examine them from different angles in adjacent stories. Sometimes it’s the same idea resurfacing–a “jewel” that stores a human mind and how people would interact with such a machine, how they would conceive of which thing was “really them,” their brain or the jewel–and sometimes it’s variations on a more general concept, biochemical happiness, religion and its manifestations in the human brain.

I was a little surprised that Egan didn’t take the time, in a note of some sort, to comment on what things he would do differently now, because I would hope there are some things–nor is that unique to him, heaven knows I’ve learned some things in the time I’ve been writing, one would hope a person would. In particular I’d flag that I’d hope his concept of bisexuality has evolved and that he would no longer use the word “retarded” in the casual offhand manner in which it shows up in a few stories. I’m also a little baffled as to why no one suggested that a story called “Crystal Nights” should either have a clearer connection to Kristallnacht or get a different and considerably more sensitive title.

But with those caveats established, this is an excellent place to start thinking about the career of Greg Egan, and about what can be done with the sub-genre of hard science fiction.

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