The Eternal Flame: Orthogonal Vol. 2

The Eternal Flame: Orthogonal Vol. 2

4.5 12
by Greg Egan
     
 

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Greg Egan’s The Clockwork Rocket introduced readers to an exotic universe where the laws of physics are very different from our own, where the speed of light varies in ways Einstein would never allow, and where intelligent life has evolved in unique and fascinating ways. Now Egan continues his epic tale of alien beings embarked on a desperate voyage to save

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Overview

Greg Egan’s The Clockwork Rocket introduced readers to an exotic universe where the laws of physics are very different from our own, where the speed of light varies in ways Einstein would never allow, and where intelligent life has evolved in unique and fascinating ways. Now Egan continues his epic tale of alien beings embarked on a desperate voyage to save their world . . . .

The generation ship Peerless is in search of advanced technology capable of sparing their home planet from imminent destruction. In theory, the ship is traveling fast enough that it can traverse the cosmos for generations–and still return home only a few years after they departed. But a critical fuel shortage threatens to cut their urgent voyage short, even as a population explosion stretches the ship’s life-support capacity to its limits.

When the astronomer Tamara discovers the Object, a meteor whose trajectory will bring it within range of the Peerless, she sees a risky solution to the fuel crisis. Meanwhile, the biologist Carlo searches for a better way to control fertility, despite the traditions and prejudices of their society. As the scientists clash with the ship’s leaders, they find themselves caught up in two equally dangerous revolutions: one in the sexual roles of their species, the other in their very understanding of the nature of matter and energy.

The Eternal Flame lights up the mind with dazzling new frontiers of physics and biology, as only Greg Egan could imagine them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers unfamiliar with 2011’s The Clockwork Rocket, vector mathematics, and the physics of light are likely to stumble through this dense sequel, which puts the “hard” in hard SF. The series’ intriguing underlying premise is apparently that light in the “Orthogonal universe” can travel at different speeds even in a vacuum, but this is never spelled out in the text. The natural laws governing this universe are detailed only in an afterword (which itself follows three appendices) that’s laden with sentences like “Because there is an upper limit on the frequency of light there is no ultraviolet catastrophe, and the spectrum predicted by classical physics is only slightly different from the true, quantum-mechanical version.” Pages of clunky scientific discussion within the book proper also stifle the plot about an alien race’s struggle to avoid the threat of meteorlike objects. Egan’s tendency to bludgeon readers with esoteric detail will be a turnoff even for those who like fiction that assigns homework. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Alien scientists launched the generation ship Peerless in hopes its crew could find the technology needed to help their home planet avoid destruction by a shower of meteors known as the Hurtlers—but now the expedition is in danger of being derailed by a fuel shortage. On board, astronomer Tamara discovers a huge object traveling in a linear trajectory past the ship, and she believes this object could provide the help they need. In the meantime, biologist Carlo searches for solutions to the food shortage on board the ship and finds, instead, a way to reinvent the act of giving birth so that it does not result in the mother's death (this species gives birth by fission). VERDICT Set in a universe where the speed of light is not fixed and where the dominant species is protean in form, this sequel to The Clockwork Rocket explores science's impact on culture and its ability to alter the very fabric of life. The author imbues his characters with a ferocious individuality that belies their amorphous appearance. Egan's fans as well as lovers of sf that emphasizes hard science should welcome this tale of courage and self-sacrifice.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781597802932
Publisher:
Night Shade Books
Publication date:
08/26/2012
Series:
Orthogonal
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.50(d)

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