Permutation City

by Greg Egan

Rating: ★★★★★

Makes 'ambitious scope' look like crazy understatement. Egan's starting point is the ethical and conceptual problems posed by people being able to scan their brains and run a software 'Copy' of themselves at a slowdown relative to real-time. The sci-fi accelerator is jammed down hard, though, and soon we're tackling not only the notions of identity in a reality where the self is editable, cloneable and potentially tormentable, but quantum immortality and the dubious nature of any level of causal reality. I didn't like the apocalypse ending -- it felt too dramatic and magical for so cerebral a novel -- but I loved the high-concept lens and the ruminations on stretching and twisting human nature.