Excerpt from Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Our Tragic Universe

by Scarlett Thomas

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2011, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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Print Excerpt


I put on my anorak and my red wool scarf and left without saying anything else; I didn’t even turn back when I heard Christopher’s box of nails fall on the floor, although I knew I should have done.

How do you survive the end of time? It’s quite simple. By the time the universe is old enough and frail enough to collapse, humans will be able to do whatever they like with it. They’ll have had billions of years to learn, and there’ll be no matron to stop them, and no liberal broadsheets and no doomy hymns. By then it’ll just be a case of wheeling one decrepit planet to one side of the universe while another one pisses itself sadly in another galaxy. And all this while waiting for the final crunch, as everything becomes everything else as the universe begins its beautiful collapse, panting and sweating until all life arcs out of it and all matter in existence is crushed into a single point and then disappears. In the barely audible last gasp of the collapsing universe, its last orgasmic sigh, all its mucus and pus and rancid jus will become pure energy, capable of everything imaginable, just for a moment. I didn’t know why I’d contemplated trying to explain this to Christopher. He’d once made me cry because he refused to accept spatial dimensions, and we’d had a massive row because he wouldn’t look at my diagram that proved Pythagoras’s theorem. According to Christopher the books I reviewed were ‘too cerebral, babe’. I didn’t know what he’d make of this one, which was a complete head-fuck.

According to Kelsey Newman, the universe, which always was a computer, will, for one moment — not even that — be so dense and have so much energy that it will be able to compute anything at all. So why not simply program it to simulate another universe, a new one that will never end, and in which everyone can live happily ever after? This moment will be called the Omega Point, and, because it has the power to contain everything, will be indistinguishable from God. It will be different from God, though, because it will run on a processing power called Energia. As the universe gets ready to collapse, no one will be writing poetry about it or making love for the last time or just bobbing around, stoned and listless, waiting for annihilation, imagining something beautiful and unfathomable on the other side. All hands will be on deck for the ultimate goal: survival. Using only physics and their bare hands, humans will construct the Omega Point, which, with its infinite power, can and for various reasons definitely will, bring everyone back to life — yes, even you — billions of years after you have died, and it will love everyone and create a perfect heaven. At the end of the universe anything could happen, except for one thing.

You can’t die, ever again.

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Excerpted from Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas. Copyright © 2010 by Scarlett Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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