Permutation City Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Permutation City

Paul Durham experiments with computer copies of himself to unlock the secrets of the universe. Over a period of five years, Paul makes multiple copies of himself in a computer using a technology that is common among the wealthy. Conflict over rights of the copies flares up as Paul performs experiments on his copies.
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He meets Maria who is trying to copy her sick mother. Maria designs the calculations for an entire planet/universe for the copies to live on. Paul believes that he can create a permanent universe if he can control all the computers in the world for just a few seconds. Maria believes that Paul is crazy and helps police build a case against him. Fear for her mother leads Maria to help him escape at the last moment.

Paul purchases computing time for all computers with Maria's help and initiates the computations for his universe. Maria goes into suspended animation with her mother as she hopes to wait for a cure. Paul severely injures himself believing that mathematically he must exist in his new universe.

Maria wakes up on her designed planet. She is angry when she finds Paul in the city because her mother is not there and she believes Paul did something to her in addition to waking Maria up against her will. Paul convinces Maria that they are in the virtual universe she designed.

There are intelligent hive creatures like insects that have evolved in the universe. The people do not want to contact the insects until they discover the concept of a creator. Paul argues with the people of the virtual universe that he created them through his experiment. The people reject this and develops a calculation that shows they were not created. By creating this calculation, they undo their own existence. The program begins to corrupt around them. Paul and Maria isolate themselves in a protected portion of the program. They then begin looking for a way to repeat the moment of creation a second time from within the program.
Best part of story, including ending: The philosophy and theory are pretty thick in the story making it difficult to read at times.

Best scene in story: The discovery of the city by Maria is interesting because it plays on the notion of reality and perception.

Opinion about the main character: Paul's insanity makes him hard to follow at times not knowing if he is showing genius or delusion in a plot that is already complicated.

The review of this Book prepared by Jay Wilburn a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of Permutation City

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 20%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 30%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 20% Tone of book    -   cynical or dry-wit FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Lifeform altered?    -   Yes Kind of alteration:    -   turned into/from a robot/computer Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   engineer Age:    -   40's-50's


Earth setting:    -   near future (later in 21st century) Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   explicit references to deaths scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   a significant amount of technical jargon How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Permutation City

Greg Egan Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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