Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Clockwork Rocket

I just finished reading The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan.
Wow, you really have to admire the lengths Egan will go to for a novel. I thought Incandescence was pretty hardcore, and Schild's Ladder was there too. Where in Incandescence he explains general relativity as the characters discover it for themselves from basic experimentation, and in Schild's Ladder he builds on existing Quantum Theory, in The Clockwork Rocket (and soon parts 2 and 3) he proposes a whole new universe where the laws of physics are subtly yet vastly different. For a near complete explanation of these new laws of physics, you can have a look at his extensive web site on it.
As in Incandescence the reader discovers the universe through the characters experiments and discoveries. Essentially light can travel at different speeds depending on its wavelength and the ramifications are pretty weird. Following the theory is very difficult and I got lost quite a bit, but you have to remember it's a novel, and you are not studying at university, and to just try to enjoy the ride. Familiar Egan territory.
Yes, Egan is amazing and produces such massive depth and such incredibly different ideas in SF, but I'm not sure I enjoyed this as much as I would have liked. The explaining of physics through the experiments of the characters was interesting once, and while very different, still somehow very similar. If that makes sense. There were lots of really cool ideas along the way though such as the reproduction cycle of the 'people' and how it affected their society and reflections on our society I guess.
Brilliant and amazing and wondrous, but somehow also a little flat.

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