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Distress [Kindle Edition]

Greg Egan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Book Description

'One of the genre's great ideas men' Times

Product Description

On the utopian, man-made island, Stateless, Nobel Prize winner Violet Mosala is close to solving the greatest problem of her career - the quest for the ultimate Theory of Everything (TOE) is almost over. Burned out by recording the abuses of biotech for his TV news syndicate, Andrew Worth grabs the chance to follow Violet's story. In contrast the world of theoretical physics seems like an anaesthetised mathematical heaven, where everything is cool and abstract. He could not have been more wrong. One by on Mosala's rival quantum physicists are disappearing from the scientific summit at 'Stateless. But why? Is it something to do with Violet herself, or is there some other, more esoteric, force at work undermining the Theory of Everything Conference?

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 615 KB
  • Print Length: 429 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (30 Dec 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004JHY6U0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #236,233 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Greg Egan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He has won the John W. Campbell award for Best Novel and has been short listed for the Hugo three times.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tour de force! 2 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's often said the best sci-fi is that which requires a sci-fi setting. It seems obvious, but the vast majority of sci-fi consists of stories that could be told equally well when transposed to another setting. Greg Egan is one of a very few writers whose work who satisfies this basic tenet. Many of his stories would simply not be tellable in any other setting. The concepts and events related within absolutely depend on technologies and ways of thinking that do not exist at the time of writing.

This is proper HARD sci-fi. But it's not hard to read.
A common criticism of hard sci-fi is that it contains only ideas, and little plot or action. Plenty of both are to be found here.

Another criticism commonly leveled at sci-fi is that the characters are wooden, and show no development thru the course of the story. Egan again bucks the trend, one may truly use the term 'novel' to describe many of his books, especially this one.

Egan is renowned for his extremely creative and mind-bending ideas. This is perhaps not his weirdest excursion, but there's plenty to sink your teeth into in that regard.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this particular work is how all these elements, which are not often found together at all, are perfectly balanced here. There's not too much action at the expense of character development, and there's not to much introspection at the expense of action. Everything fits together to make one cohesive and immensely satisfying whole.

I've read a lot of Egans books, he's one of my favourite authors, but this one is still my favourite, for the reasons outlined above. I don't think I could go into any more detail without risk of plot spoilers. It's a good 'un, what are you waiting for?!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Hard SciFi Novel 14 Dec 2000
This is my favourite book of the year. It has a really spine chilling opening and the book just gets better and better after that.
Egan's Theory of Everything is entertaining hard sci fi. The detail in the novel is great - the man throws off new ideas left right and centre.
You have to read the entire book to discover why it is called Distress though!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Pieces of hard Sf in a long and boring text 8 Sep 2013
By Strv 74
Greg Egan has a reputation of being a "hard" sf writer. That is, he is supposed to be driven in his writing by technology. This book shows that to be true to some extent but it also fails in many other ways.

We are put into a scenario in the future about fifty years from now. There is to be an presentation of a ground breaking scientific discovery. The Theory of Everything, TOE. We then get to follow a journalist in his mission to cover this event. According to the presentation on the back of the book there is a threat against the most important scientist in this event and you get the impression that the story is some kind of criminal or thriller theme set into the future. Unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, the book is 423 pages long and that part of the book starts somewhere around page 230.

Greg Egan can write hard science Sf. There is no doubt about that. Some of us who have read Sf for a long time remember the idea that Sf is supposed to give you a "sense of wonder". This is accomplished by Mr Egan on almost every page. There is so much of interesting and fascinating ideas presented that the whole flow of the story suffers. You just cant help yourself from stopping and thinking "wow, what a great idea". But after some time you start to realize that what he is doing is presenting a new world to you, but he is not writing a story. Fifty pages into the book I had gone from four stars to three and 150 pages later I was down to two stars. There simply was no story taking place until you entered the second half of the book.

The Main character in the book is a journalist that has some serious mental problems. It is not helped by the fact that not only is he living in a world full of super advanced technology but also a world with seven types of human gender.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars !!!Concept Vertigo!!! 11 Jan 2010
By numpty
Firstly; watch out for plot spoiler reviews!!
(it's not a mystery tour if you know where your heading)

Egan's work is 'Hard' Sci-Fi of the highest order. I give him the edge over Brian Aldis (my other favorite), as concepts are heavier and plots driven by 'rawer' science at a blistering pace.

His breadth of vision astounds; always extrapolating logically to the n'th degree. A modicum of effort may be required from the reader at times; but one is richly rewarded with a sense of awe, discovery and achievement. Each book is a Grand Odyssey.

Hold tight and don't look down, because he'll take you a long, long way from where you started....
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bioengineering, cosmological physics, murder. Top notch. 31 Jan 1997
By A Customer - Published on
(I read the UK paperback.) Greg Egan is currently the best
hard sf writer I know of. He writes science fiction the
way it SHOULD be: imaginative yet plausible, stuff that
makes you think, stuff that draws on real science rather
than warp-space hyper-rubbish.

Egan's novels are pretty good but his short stories are
really excellent. It's interesting that, although "Distress" is a novel, it opens
with a series of interviews (the protagonist is a
journalist), each one of which is like a mini-short story
about some aspect of biotechnology. This plays to Egan's strength: idea, idea, idea. However, after a while the
story settles down to the
central plot, about a theoretical physicist whose life
is endangered by a lunatic group with some strange ideas
about cosmology.

I strongly recommend this book. It deserves a 10 for
ideas; I am downgrading it to a 9 because other aspects
of Egan's writing could still be improved.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A science fiction gem. 25 Mar 2001
By Stephen Dedman - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Distress is not only the best of Egan's novels that I've yet read, but one of the most inventive and accomplished sf novels I've read in many years. Andrew Worth is a science journalist in a world populated with ignorance cultists, voluntary autists, and gender migrants. Having finished the 'frankenscience' series Junk DNA, he turns down an offer to tape a show on the newly endemic Acute Clinical Anxiety Syndrome (a.k.a Distress), to compile a profile of quantum physicist Violet Mosala, currently at work on a Theory of Everything, or TOE. Worth leaves Sydney and his marriage (both in ruins), and travels to Stateless, a utopian anarchy on an island constructed with pirated biotech. Plots against both Mosala and Stateless escalate as the novel heads towards an astonishing climax. While Egan is best known for his ideas - and there are more ideas in the first chapter of this book than in many sf novels - his characterization in this book is excellent: Worth is a well-rounded character with his own opinions and motivation, Mosala is a welcome example of a fictional sane scientist, and the asex Akili Kuwale is a masterpiece of sf characterization.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind Blowing 17 April 2001
By Omer Belsky - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Distress is a very unique novel. It is a quest for the intelect, a discussion of the implications of technology on our lives, and even more importantly, discussion about the implications of actual science on life.
If you want to know what the future will be like, Egan is a place to look for inspiration (although not for answers). Egan not only understands technology and science, and not only has the imagniation to forsee the future in ways which are original and thought provoking, but is able to see the social consequences of technology.
Egan's story, especially in the first two thirds of the novel, is an almost entirely successful and constant challange to the mind, in an enjoyable story. Egan's prose is powerful, and you can often enjoy his phrases, and while his minor characters are awfully indistinguishable, the two major ones, Violet Mosala and Andrew Worth, are very well realised and are sympathetic.
The novel contains ideas about the Theory of Everything. The theory of Everything is a unification of Einstein's theory of Relativity and Quantom Mechanics - it's a theory that can explain, at least theoretically, EVERYTHING, from the motions of planets to those of electrons.
The novel doesn't speculate as much about TOE itself, but about the social and psychological and even ethical responses of it, and it does so by introducing a pseudo-scientific religion which glorifies and demonises the descoverer of the theory.
This religion is interesting, but it is one of the two major failure of the novel because (slight spoiler here) it turns up that it is true in a sense. This changes the story from a scientific to a metaphysic one, and pushes us towards the realms of fantasy.
The other major weakness is that Egan's plotting and story elements are relatively poor. Crisises can be resolved in manners which are hardly satsifactory to the reader, in the sense that they rarely are well established or given proper pay off. Egan attempts to write a 'thriller' especially at the end, and it doesn't work.
But those are relatively minor problems. Distress is a novel of ideas, and thus it functions brilliantly. It'll make you think. So go read it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great thought provoking reading 3 Dec 1999
By Debra - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Extrapolation - Wild Plotting 25 Oct 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If there were just one book here, it would be easier to review.
There is the book about life in 2055, in a world completely transformed by biotech. This book deserves more than 5 stars. I wish I was going to be around to see how much Egan got right.
There is the book about how an actual working anarchy might behave and come to be. This is fascinating, and far different from the usual rightish libertarianism to be found in political SF. Four stars for this part.
And then there's the scientific book. You have to seriously suspend disbelief here, to take the threat to the universe seriously. But if you can do that (and I could), it's an extremely exciting and well put-together plot. Two or three stars for science fiction, or six for fantasy.
It's a mind-bender.
Some of the reviews here seem to think it's anti-religious. I don't read it that way. In fact, the ending seems suffused with an eloquent and most unusual mysticism. Whatever this is, it's not so simple as a cold, mechanistic, purposeless universe. As Violet says in the book, the Theory of Everything is what lets us touch.
Give it a chance. It's worth the trouble.
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