Friday, January 18, 2013


Incandescence is a science fiction novel by Greg Egan. I read the whole thing but won't ever do it again and won't ever read another book by this author without seeing a copy and previewing it first.

My science knowledge is limited to high school- and college-level biology, natural history readings, and what might be considered a very basic degree of science literacy. I get the feeling I might have enjoyed this book if I'd had a knowledge of physics, but, honestly, I'd rather not have to have a knowledge of physics to enjoy reading a science fiction book. I'm more used to science fiction books where the science is background, and I've read many a "hard" sf book that I enjoyed. In this book characters and plot are background, and the science is the thing. In a way it reminds me of Flatland, except I liked Flatland.

Also, I don't mind the occasional infodump in the service of advancing the plot, but I felt like entire chapters of this book were infodump but that the plot itself was not advanced by it. It felt like a science class attempting an experimental teaching method.

I feel like I accomplished something by making it through this book, but I'd never have made it if the book hadn't been a Christmas present from The Husband. It was even on a list of books I'd like to have, so it's my own fault. I wish I could remember where I got the recommendation from.


from the back of the book:
Are you a child of DNA?

Composed of innumerable beings from a wide variety of races, human and otherwise, the vast meta-civilization known as the Amalgam spans nearly the entire galaxy–except for the bright, hot center. There dwell the Aloof, silent residents of the galactic core, who for millions of years have deflected all attempts at communication and contact. But when Rakesh encounters a traveler who claims to have been contacted by the Aloof and shown a meteor bearing traces of DNA, he cannot turn down the opportunity to explore uncharted space in search of a lost world.

On a translucent world of rock called the Splinter, deep within the sea of light known as the Incandescence, lives Roi, a member of a race lost not only to the Amalgam, but to itself. Her world is in grave danger, and it will take an unprecedented flowering of science to save it.

Rakesh's journey will take him across light-years and millennia. Roi's will take her through vistas of learning and discovery just as vast. Greg Egan's blend of dazzling speculation and gripping storytelling will leave you stunned by the wondrous vision of the far future that he has created.

Strange Horizons (who lays out my own complaints much better than I ever could) calls the narrative exchanges "dry and unengaging," says, "It is not that the book wholly lacks interest" and says:
...the scientific model is that they spell this significance out clearly and fully. That is what this particular scientist (Gregory Egan BSc) does in this novel. He does it all the way through. It is deadening.
SF Site says, "For all its hints of greatness and pleasing moments, Incandescence ultimately feels like a failed literary experiment" and closes by calling the book "frankly rather dull". SF Signal says, "If you don’t particularly want an awesome science lecture with your science fiction, there’s not much else here."


  1. It would be nice if we could count on the back of the book to be accurate.

    1. yes, i agree. sometimes i think back cover copy writers and cover artists have not even read the book.

    2. Wouldn´t it be funny with a back cover that tried to discourage the potential reader? "Don´t read this book, it´s plot is difficult to comprehend and it´s badly written, too." It could lure more people in than one might think!

    3. it might appeal to our love of a challenge. i could brag: "i did it when they said it couldn't be done!" lol

  2. Anonymous6:22 AM

    I am not a big science fiction fan, although I do have some favorites. You may like Kim Falconer's books, published by Harper Collins. Plenty of science but plenty of fantasy melded together in a delicious futuristic stew. One series involves DNA in a surprising plot twist, too.

    1. i've been reading science fiction for decades but had never heard of this author before. i'll check him/her out. thx!