Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Border Guards - Greg Egan


Number of words : 9300
Percent of complex words : 10.8
Average syllables per word : 1.5
Average words per sentence : 17.8


Fog : 11.4
Flesch : 62.0
Flesch-Kincaid : 9.0



A quantum soccer player.


Another player.


Another player.

Margit Osvit

An opponent of Jamil's, a top-class player. Also 7594 years old and a researcher responsible for access to the New Territories, along with Grace.


Another player.


Jamil's ninety-eighth child.


Hashim's granddaughter.


Another player.

Emmy Noether

Group theory pioneer.


A player that leaves.


Player who hosts a party.


Jamil's first daughter.

Grace Fust

A friend of Margit's and a researcher.


Nigerian inventor of the jewel.


Indian leader resistance leader.


South African resistance leader.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese resistance leader.


Another player.


Another player.


Another player.


Another player.


Another player.


Quantum soccer

A sport involving balls and technology and probability.

Lie groups

Jamil's current study interest in mathematics.



The city Jamil is living in.


A planet with a microsun in an artificial universe.

New Territories

A group of artificial universes.

Ndoli jewel

A brain replacement that can be backed up, allowing immortality.

A good chunk of the first part of the piece is about the playing of this future game of probability manipulation via opposing teams.

Jamil is intrigued by the opposition’s star player, Margit, even more so after their team is waxed by hers. A woman of mystery.

Jamil is upset that a friend of his is moving away, and here you start to see, that along with playing strange games, these people are likely rather old, and also cue mystery woman arriving on the scene:

So, he goes back to studying until the next soccer game, where Margit and teammates wipe the floor with them again. It appears that Jamil may have managed to draw the stranger out of her shell, as she turns up at his house. Further, it appears this woman is not just the aloof independent super-athlete that everyone thinks.

She wants more than just dinner, clearly, and after sleeping together, the next morning her trauma begins to be revealed.

The traumatic event she and her friend underwent (kidnap and torture) spurred them on to develop the Ndoli jewel to prevent people suffering what they had undergone in the same way.

Needless to say, immortality is going to get, in particular, religious opposition, and Margit and Jamil discuss this, along with further discoveries made that enabled travel and expansion – something pretty handy when you have huge numbers of people that can live a very long time. The suicide of her friend and colleague is at the heart of her bitterness

So we come to another issue of the story, that of the generation gap. Here, it is really about as large as you can get. Margit, one of the first of the long lived encounters a young generation, who she thinks can’t understand what she has experienced particularly with regards to people actually dying, as opposed to just up and vanishing for some length of time, like Jamil’s friend.

Before the next quantum soccer game, Jamil talks to his fellow players about what is troubling the enigmatic star, to see if they can overcome their generation gap.

After she manages a particularly spectacular goal, they stop the game early, and here is where the title comes from:

Ezequiel said, “We want to be your border guards. We want to stand beside you.”

5 out of 5
"Martin turned to Omar. “So what does a paramedic do when he comes across a man dressed as a woman?” He was assuming Jabari's companion was pre-operative, though that wasn't necessarily the case; Ayatollah Khomeini, no less, had issued a startlingly enlightened fatwa in the eighties, declaring that gender reassignment surgery was a perfectly acceptable practice.

Omar said, “For a heroin addict lying in an alley, who knows? But for this, I think he acts like he doesn't notice. Why make te-rouble?”

Martin pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes. A male paramedic had an excuse to play dumb, but what happened when a female doctor examined the patient more closely? Notwithstanding Khomeini's ruling, there was no guarantee that a man who took oestrogen and put on an evening gown was going to sail through the segregated medical system without igniting some form of commotion."

4 out of 5


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