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After developing a lengthy exposé on "frankenscience," SeeNet reporter Andrew Worth is burnt out. So burnt that he passes up a plum assignment covering the new disease "Distress." Instead, he asks for a lower-key job profiling Violet Mosala, a scientist who earned a Nobel Prize at the age of 25 and who is about to announce her version of the Theory of Everything. The TOE is an attempt to explain how all scientific theories fit together, but it may actually be the catalyst that created the universe, making Violet the "Keystone" of the universe. So much for the quiet assignment ...
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
A dizzying intellectual adventure.” The New York Times
From the opening "revival" scene that I had to read three times to the final page, Distress was a great read. I really enjoyed his play with gender--ve and ver, for example, were intriguing. The Theory of Everything was scientific enough to be credible, but written such that even a non-science reader could appreciate it. And the concept of "Stateless" was great. This is science fiction as it is meant to be: plausible, but pushing the envelope.
In "Distress", Greg Egan has provided a thought-provoking vision of the future, and a chilling view of the essence of reality. He creates a world filled with biotechnology wonders, and has created a place, "Stateless", based on these wonders. He then takes this world and weaves in a plot that dives into a stark philosophy of existence. His view point is that man can assume he is no more than matter and information. But Egan does not despair at that view, but rather uses his two main characters, Violet Mosala and Andrew Worth, to show its power. As Mosala, the physicist, finishes a Theory of Everything, Worth takes his experiences in the book to reconcile the implications of the theory. Alone, the TEO would reverberate through time causing a fatal illness "Distress", but Worth solves that dilemma, and opens a new perspective for mankind. But don't think you can read this book casually (I made that mistake). The physics is unforgiving (brush up on the integration of the forces of nature, and on the latest theories of space as a dance of virtual particles). And bring a magic marker. The first time you hit a new name, or ANY time there is a reference to one of a myriad of anti- or pro-science groups, highlight it. That will allow you to go back and understand how the actions of that person or group from two hundred pages back, motivate what is happening where you are reading. This type of book demonstrates that the fiction novel market should break convention and include (heresy here) indexes and tables in books to help the reader. It is this problem of complex and distance references, plus some dangling plot threads, that keep me from rating this higher.
Epistemology and TOE metaphysics stretched together in the best work of fiction I have ever read on the subjects. The rationals are top notch as are allways with Egan, embroidering here his most ambitious and compelling work to date. One of the very few writers in the same intelectual league with Stanislaw Lem.
Greg Egan's "Distress" is a most unusual work of science fiction. Most of the story takes place on Earth in the middle of the next century, but on an artificially created island called "Stateless" that is diplomatically shunned by most of the rest of the world because of how it was created. On the island, a convention is gathering to decide on the new "Theory of Everything" which is supposed to be as revolutionary as the Theory of Relativity. Lurking in the background is a new psychological malady named Distress, which is somehow linked to these events. Egan is a good storyteller and "Distress," like most of the best science fiction, is brimming with unusual ideas.
I am not a regular reader of much speculative fiction, however Egan's work (which I picked up basically on a whim) may change that. I found Distress to be challenging and mentally invigoration especially after the great deal of sludge I've forced my way through when I've given SF a try previously. I don't know if I completely agree with or even fully understand the metaphysics Egan appears to be endorsing at the end of the story, I'd be interested in hearing his comments on the work. If the book has any imperfections, it's that the characters are a bit under-developed, but that certainly didn't stop me from recommending it to my friends or to whoever's reading this right now.