Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Permutation City Prologue - Greg Egan

"He closed his eyes again for a few seconds. When he opened them, the feeling was already less oppressive. No doubt it would pass; it seemed too bizarre a state of mind to be sustained for long. Certainly, none of the other Copies had reported anything similar … but then, none of them had volunteered much useful data at all. They'd just ranted abuse, whined about their plight, and then terminated themselves — all within fifteen (subjective) minutes of gaining consciousness.

And this one? How was he different from Copy number four? Three years older. More stubborn? More determined? More desperate for success? He'd believed so. If he hadn't felt more committed than ever — if he hadn't been convinced that he was, finally, prepared to see the whole thing through — he would never have gone ahead with the scan.

But now that he was “no longer” the flesh-and-blood Paul Durham — “no longer” the one who'd sit outside and watch the whole experiment from a safe distance — all of that determination seemed to have evaporated.

Suddenly he wondered: What makes me so sure that I'm not still flesh-and-blood? He laughed weakly, hardly daring to take the possibility seriously. His most recent memories seemed to be of lying on a trolley in the Landau Clinic, while technicians prepared him for the scan — on the face of it, a bad sign — but he'd been overwrought, and he'd spent so long psyching himself up for “this”, that perhaps he'd forgotten coming home, still hazy from the anaesthetic, crashing into bed, dreaming …

He muttered the password, “Abulafia” — and his last faint hope vanished, as a black-on-white square about a metre wide, covered in icons, appeared in midair in front of him."

5 out of 5

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