Dichronauts Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Seth is a surveyor, along with his friend Theo, a leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right.
In the universe containing Seth's world, light cannot travel in all directions: there is a "dark cone" to the north and south. Seth can only face to the east (or the west, if he tips his head backwards). If he starts to turn to the north or south, his body stretches out across the landscape, and to rotate as far as north-northeast is impossible.
Every living thing in Seth's world is in a state of perpetual migration as they follow the sun's shifting orbit and the narrow habitable zone it creates. Cities are being constantly disassembled at one edge and rebuilt at the other, with surveyors mapping safe routes ahead.
But when Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they discover a terrifying threat: a fissure in the surface of the world, so deep and wide that no one can perceive its limits. As the habitable zone continues to move, the migration will soon be blocked by this unbridgeable void, and the expedition has only one option to save its city from annihilation: descend into the unknown.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 49 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 11, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #218,332 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#393 in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#896 in Hard Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#4,884 in Hard Science Fiction (Books)
Top reviews from the United States
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"Dichronauts" is no exception: choosing to set a novel in a universe with very different rules from our own is a long and respected tradition but the care and depth of analysis you'll find here is not as common. Of course, since it's not a treatise but a novel, Egan had to take some (several) shortcuts - the protagonists are explicitly tasked to explore and explain their world, which leads to more pages of exposition than I'd probably like, and there are occasions when their inner monologue (or conversation) have a slightly off-putting "As you know, Bob" tone. On the other hand, without information like this the reader would have to spend half the time consulting Egan's webpage to understand what's going on, so I feel the tradeoff is more than justified. As a side note: I strongly recommend doing that anyway, because the images and animations in the site's section dedicated to "Dichronauts" are rather useful for those of us who cannot easily visualize the consequences of having two time-like dimensions.
From a "literary" standpoint, the style is pretty much what readers of Egan are used to - clear, succinct prose with very few unneeded sentences - so I would say that appreciating his previous work is a rather solid indicator of whether you'll like this one. The converse is also true, unfortunately: if you don't like his pragmatic approach to character development, or his tendency to veer off into scientific discourse when you least expect it, you probably won't like this.
One final note: in more than one page it's easy to read between the lines and find socio-political commentary on the issues and subjects that Egan has explored in the past: (im)migration, reaction to and acceptance of different cultures, self and personality and so on. Given the colossal differences between "Dichronauts"' universe and ours, though, it's rather hard to understand when that's a deliberate choice by the author and when it's just me projecting.
In other words, while it's tempting to read "Dichronauts" as a super-charged Flatland, I feel like that would be doing a disservice to both: reading it as a stunningly in-depth documentary set in a majestically ambitious thought experiment is probably the right choice.
The geometry of the world of Dichronauts is impossible to intuit, but Egan describes it with such patience and clarity that it is also impossible to misunderstand. Flatland lies somewhere at the base of this book, but Egan far surpasses anything Abbott managed, both in playing with dimensions and the most brutal and poignant depiction of oppression I have ever seen in fiction.
This is why I love Egan's work – he is absolutely unflinching. He never cuts corners with his world, his characters' motivations, or the agonizing dilemmas in which they find themselves. They are people trying to do right in circumstances in which doing right is physically impossible. They get no magic wands to wave, no convenient shortcut to everyone's best interests..
Like all of Egan's work, Dichronauts is brilliant and sweet, heartbreaking and obscure. Having read it, I feel like I have some tools to tackle the real world as well.
Somehow, in the case of "Dichronauts" it just became too much for me. It might be my own fault - perhaps lacking the energy and/or perceived time to puzzle through the novel. But I still love the older Greg Egan body of work, some of which (e.g. Diaspora, Incandescence, many short stories, etc.) I've read multiple times over the years and expect to read again. But for this one, I've bumped into my limit at least for the time being.
This is also the weakness of the book. Once Egan is done showing all the interesting parts of the world he built, the story just stops without resolving the main conflict. Maybe he's trying to set up a trilogy like he did with Orthogonal, but until a sequel comes, I can only judge the book on its own, as an unsatisfactory story.
Top reviews from other countries
So we have a world in which simply trying to rotate an object can change its apparent shape; where it's impossible to rotate a north-facing object to face east, or an east-facing object to face north; where the stable shape for a planet is the hyperboloid depicted on the cover; where light can't travel to the north or south; and where falling over in those directions can have lethal consequences.
As with Orthogonal, Egan's aliens have one utterly alien property (in this case, we have two intelligent species that exist as commensals, one threaded through the skull of the other), but otherwise behave and speak like clever and amiable humans. And that's fine, because Egan's imagined world is strange enough without him expecting us to accommodate to an alien society, too. I'm therefore reminded of Hal Clement at his best, though Egan's characters have more humour.
The story is a quest, in which the reader finds out more about the world along with the story's characters. There are some surprises, and one toe-curling moment I certainly didn't see coming.
I knock off a star only because I think Egan's world may simply be too strange for many readers. In Orthogonal, one could amble along accepting that there was something a little odd about time without fretting about the details. In this story, almost every event is influenced by the strange spatial geometry, and if you don't find the geometry of special relativity engaging, you may be left floundering. Egan provides some explanatory detail in the Afterword (which could productively be read first, since it contains no significant spoilers), and much more information on his website.
This was not an easy read, in fact it was quite exhausting and, I imagine, would not attract non-sf readers much. But it was unusually interesting.
I criticised another of Egan's books, 'Clockwork Rocket' for over-indulgence in explanatory diagrams, however, in this book I imagine a few diagrams might have clarified some of the detail. I'm still struggling to imagine which way a head would be 'tipped' and where the pings were directed.
I'm hoping that the story will be continued. If there is a sequel, I shall certainly buy it; I would like to find out what happens to Seth and Theo and their companions and there is plenty of scope for future developments.