An ingot of metallic hydrogen…
Whoa, wait a second. An ingot. Of metallic hydrogen. Okay, I see what kind of story “Glory,” by Greg Egan is going to be. Old school, hard core, science fiction. That hydrogen gets put through some outrageous changes, which are mind-bending beyond the point of disbelief all the way back out to the fantastic. And it’s all prologue to the tale of two travelers.
Like “Last Contact,” this is a small story driven by big ideas. Joan and Anne visit the Noudah, in search of the ancient mathematics of their precessors, the Niah. Unlike “Last Contact,” the characters seem less human–and it’s not just because the have six arms; they don’t have their own agendas beside pursuing ideas. The persuasions necessary to move the story forward meet only token resistance, and the characters chat awfully casually about topics as grand as the passing of civilizations.
As a reader, the story left me cold. But as an erstwhile math geek, I liked the ideas. I loved the commuting hypercubes and enjoyed pondering whether it’s really such a good thing to find the Theorem of Everything.
Adds up to an Idea story.
Tomorrow: Bigger and badder Ideas