Greg Egan – Scale

I just finished Scale by Greg Egan and, as usual, I’m left with a hurty brain but also an intriguing story.

So, yeah, wild premise that’s not fantasy it’s (very) Hard SF. Here’s a link to The Science Of Scale.

(WARNING – heavy physics in that linky.)

Graph of electron position in an atom
A graph of leptons in helium with the text: 

In the universe of Scale, an electrically neutral atom might contain any mixture of leptons of different masses, so long as their total number, and hence the total negative charge, balances the positive charge of the nucleus. But while an atom like this can be a lot more complicated than the muon/electron helium atom, the same general principle applies. The overall scale of the atom will be determined by the mass of the lightest leptons that the atom contains, the number of such leptons, and the screened charge of the nucleus: its actual positive charge, plus the negative charge of the heavier leptons that sit closer to the nucleus than the lightest ones.

So there’s all that but the actual story is far more about the human condition, politics, fear, love, community. Egan’s use of scale is an ingenious invention that will make you ponder ‘what if.’

Here’s an excerpt:

“As the phone started ringing, the leftmost indicator bulb in the row of seven lit up, blinking in time with the jangle of the buzzer but bright enough to shine clearly through the red gel and a patina of dust. Sam hesitated, doubting his own eyes for a moment, then tempted to assume a wrong number and spare both parties the nuisance of a protracted conversation.

But he couldn’t let the call ring out. Even a wrong number from Scale One would be the most interesting thing that had happened to him all week.

He lifted the handset. “Lucid Investigations,” he announced, then he jabbed the DONE button. The exchange let him hear the slow bass rumble as it replayed his taped voice three octaves deeper, then he listened in as it gathered the reply. He could follow most Scale Three and Scale Five speech effortlessly, but he struggled to get any purchase on the tortured syllables splayed out in these strange groans before the exchange stepped in and spared him the effort.

“Do you take clients from District One?”