Schild’s Ladder

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 16, 2004

Schild’s Ladder by Greg Egan

Of the eight who showed up for this discussion, all had read at least part of the book, but only four finished it. Some of the seven who had read Egan’s work before preferred Diaspora or his short fiction, but others did enjoy this book.

The book begins far in the future when an Earth scientist and several aliens decide to test a space-time theory and create a novo-vacuum. The test goes awry of course and the novo-vacuum begins to expand and take over our universe. The rest of the book is set even further in the future and involves a struggle between those who want to study the novo-vacuum and those who want to destroy it.

Egan’s mixture of real and imaginary physics was a bit much for some readers to slog through, but at least it was incorporated into the story well and not presented as infodumps. Egan certainly must be given credit for trying to create a commercial, interesting fiction around such high-level science. His characters, however, could have been fleshed out more; they were not very believable as immortals living in the far future, even though they did have the choice of being down-loaded into a computer or having a real body.

At the end of the discussion we came to an ethical question. Would you go ahead with an experiment that could be potentially disastrous if it also had a potential for numerous benefits? Many of us would decide to wait until we knew more–it’s not worth the risk.

— Sandy Kayser