By Greg Egan
Nasim is a young computer scientist, hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project: a plan to map every neural connection in the human brain. But funding for the project is cancelled, and Nasim ends up devoting her career to Zendegi, a computerised virtual world used by millions of people.Fifteen years later, a revived Connectome Project has published a map of the brain. Zendegi is facing fierce competition from its rivals, and Nasim decides to exploit the map to fill the virtual world with better Proxies: the bit-players that bring its crowd scenes to life. As controversy rages over the nature and rights of the Proxies, a friend with terminal cancer begs Nasim to make a Proxy of him, so some part of him will survive to help raise his orphaned son. But Zendegi is about to become a battlefield ...
Zones of Thought
By Vernor Vinge
Vinge's masterpieces together at last, in one epic volumeThe Hugo Award winning A FIRE UPON THE DEEP and its epic companion novel A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, set in the same universe but 20,000 years earlier, were benchmarks for SF in the last decade of the 20th century. In FIRE 'Vinge presents a galaxy divided into Zones - regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. Earth remains in the "Slowness" zone, where nothing can travel faster than light and minds are fairly limited. The action of the book is in the "Beyond", where translight travel and other marvels exist, and humans are one of many intelligent species. One human colony has been experimenting to find a path to the "Transcend", where intelligence and power are so great as to seem godlike. Instead they release the Blight, an evil power, from a billion-year captivity.' Publisher's Weekly In DEEPNESS, 'the story has the same sense of epic vastness despite happening mostly in one isolated solar system. Here there's a world of intelligent spider creatures who traditionally hibernate through the "Deepest Darkness" of their strange variable sun's long "off" periods, when even the atmosphere freezes. Now, science offers them an alternative. Meanwhile, attracted by spider radio transmissions, two human starfleets come exploring - merchants hoping for customers and tyrants who want slaves. Their inevitable clash leaves both fleets crippled, with the power in the wrong hands, which leads to a long wait in space until the spiders develop exploitable technology. Over the years Vinge builds palpable tension through multiple storylines and characters.' Dave Langford
By Alastair Reynolds
A fabulous collection spanning the galaxies and career of SF superstar Alastair ReynoldsReynolds' pursuit of truth is not limited to wide-angle star smashing - not that stars don't get pulverised when one character is gifted (or cursed) with an awful weapon by the legendary Merlin. Reynolds' protagonists find themselves in situations of betrayal, whether by a loved one's accidental death, as in 'Signal to Noise', or by a trusted wartime authority, in 'Spirey and the Queen'. His fertile imagination can resurrect Elton John on Mars in 'Understanding Space and Time' or make prophets of the human condition out of pool-cleaning robots in the title story.But overall, the stories in ZIMA BLUE represent a more optimistic take on humanity's future, a view that says there may be wars, there may be catastrophes and cosmic errors, but something human will still survive.