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Distress Paperback – 7 Feb 2008

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (7 Feb. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575081732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575081734
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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"A dizzying intellectual adventure." --The New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By GeekDaddy on 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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Format: Paperback
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.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Nick Craig-Wood on 14 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By numpty on 11 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
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) 47 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Bioengineering, cosmological physics, murder. Top notch. 31 Jan. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
(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 16 people found the following review helpful
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Bring Your Mind, But also a Magic Marker 5 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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.
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