The Big Idea: Jon Evans

There’s the observation that at any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. In Jon Evans’ new novel Exadelic, this may be more right than anyone ever suspected.


Exadelic‘s big idea is why it is, probably, the only book about occult magic categorized by Amazon as ‘Hard Science Fiction.’ That high concept: in the present day, an AI trained on occult texts learns how to hack reality itself. More precisely, it discovers that the fundamental substrate of our universe is more like software than hardware … and the phenomena we’ve long called “magic” stem from bugs in that software.

It also learns there used to be much more magic—hence ancient myths and legends—until, a few thousand years ago, our reality’s operating system was patched, and most magic went away. But a sufficiently sophisticated AI can still exploit the subtler bugs which remain, and hijack the laws of physics.

The notion that our universe is fundamentally software has a surprisingly illustrious scientific history. Stephen Wolfram has long suggested reality is, at root, “a vast array of interacting computational elements.” But the universe–as-software idea raises some disconcerting questions: does that suggest it’s running on hardware … somewhere else? Was it programmed? In other words, do we live inside a vast simulation? And if so, programmed by what, for what purposes?

Exadelic: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

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