On a world where light can only travel outside a “dark cone” that stretches to the left and right, two species share bodies and combine their senses to make it possible to perceive more of their surroundings. But when surveyors Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they find a fissure in the surface of the world, so deep and wide that no one can perceive its limits More
Welcome to the strangest world in science fiction
Seth is a surveyor, along with his friend Theo, a leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right. Theo, in turn, relies on Seth for mobility, and for ordinary vision looking forwards and backwards. Like everyone else in their world, they are symbionts, depending on each other to survive.
In the universe containing Seth’s world, light cannot travel in all directions: there is a “dark cone” to the north and south. Seth can only face to the east (or the west, if he tips his head backwards). If he starts to turn to the north or south, his body stretches out across the landscape, and to rotate to face north-east is every bit as impossible as accelerating to the speed of light.
Every living thing in Seth’s world is in a state of perpetual migration as they follow the sun’s shifting orbit and the narrow habitable zone it creates. Cities are being constantly disassembled at one edge and rebuilt at the other, with surveyors mapping safe routes ahead.
But when Seth and Theo join an expedition to the edge of the habitable zone, they discover a terrifying threat: a fissure in the surface of the world, so deep and wide that no one can perceive its limits. As the habitable zone continues to move, the migration will soon be blocked by this unbridgeable void, and the expedition has only one option to save its city from annihilation: descend into the unknown.
Boldest plot in science fiction ; making physicists wildest thought experiments look like soap opera. Still, Greg Egan manages to make this unfathomable alien world realistic, and in some sens, homelike.