Thursday, August 23, 2018

3-Adica, by Greg Egan

[Asimov's]
★★★☆☆ Mixed

(Virtual Reality) Sentient characters in a massive online multiplayer game exploit a flaw in the operating system to escape to a safe place that’s only rumored to exist. (19,991 words; Time: 1h:06m)


"3-Adica," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 09-10|18, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: I loved the virtual-reality setting, and much of the fun of the story is gradually figuring out how it works. The notion of intelligent programs using what amounts to a buffer-overflow exploit to switch to different parts of the game was amusing.

Con: The resolution was a bit of a letdown, and the p-adic space seemed like an awful place to be.

Trying to make space for an unlimited number of intelligent programs didn’t seem very practical.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. When Egan is good he's very, very good, and when he's not good - well, he's usually still pretty interesting, but yeah, this didn't really work for me, either, although it certainly had its moments. It reminded me a bit of his "Dark Integers" story from quite a while ago, which again had a great concept, but the story he built around it just didn't quite work.

    One thing this story did was remind me of the description of a mathematics class in the course catalog my freshman year that was so striking in its oddity that I've remembered it ever since: "Welcome to the brave new world of p-adic numbers, where every triangle is isosceles and every point in a circle is its center. Note: does not presume any knowledge of what a p-adic number is." Despite this enticement, I did not take the course.

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    1. Given what happened to the characters in the story, I think you made a wise decision to steer clear of that course. :-)

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