Hard science fiction’s grand master delivers the stunning conclusion to his Orthogonal trilogy.
In a universe where the laws of physics and the speed of light are completely alien to our own, the travelers on the ship Peerless have completed a generations-long struggle to develop advanced technology in a desperate attempt to save their home world. But as tensions mount over the risks of turning the ship around and starting the long voyage home, a new complication arises: the prospect of constructing a messaging system that will give the Peerless news of its own future.
While some see this as a guarantee of safety and a chance to learn of their mission’s ultimate success, others are convinced that the knowledge will be oppressive or worse that the system could be abused. The conflict over this proposed communication system tears the travelers’ society apart, culminating in terrible violence. To save the Peerless and its mission, two rivals must travel to a world where time runs in reverse.
Continuing in the tradition of The Clockwork Rocket and The Eternal Flame, Greg Egan’s Orthogonal trilogy has continuously pushed the boundaries of scientific fiction, without ever losing track of the lives of the individuals carrying out this grand mission. The Arrows of Time brings this fascinating space opera to a close while offering insight into human nature and the struggles we face, both as individuals and as a species.
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In an alien universe where space-time plays by different rules than our own, interstellar voyages last longer for the travelers than for those they left behind. After six generations in flight, the inhabitants of the mountain-sized spacecraft the Peerless have used their borrowed time to develop advanced technology that could save their home world from annihilation.
But not every traveler feels the same allegiance to a world they have never seen, and as tensions mount over the risks of turning the ship around and starting the long voyage home, a new complication arises: the prospect of constructing a messaging system that will give the Peerless news of its own future.
While some of the crew welcome the opportunity to be warned of impending dangers — and perhaps even hear reports of the ship's triumphant return — others are convinced that knowing what lies ahead in their own lives will be oppressive, and that the authorities will abuse the system for political gain. Agata longs for a chance to hear a message from the ancestors back on the home world, proving that the sacrifices of the travelers have not been in vain, but her most outspoken rival, Ramiro, fears that the system will undermine every decision the travelers make.
When a vote fails to settle the matter and dissent erupts into violence, Ramiro, Agata and their allies must seek a new way to bring peace to the Peerless — by traveling to a world where time runs in reverse.
The Arrows of Time is the final volume of the Orthogonal trilogy, bringing a powerful and surprising conclusion to the epic story of the Peerless that began with The Clockwork Rocket and The Eternal Flame.
Greg Egan is a computer programmer, and the author of the acclaimed SF novels Diaspora, Quarantine, Permutation City, and Teranesia. He has won the Hugo Award as well as the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His short fiction has been published in a variety of places, including Interzone, Asimov’s, and Nature. He lives in Perth, Australia.
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