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Zendegi [Paperback]

Greg Egan
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

14 July 2011

Nasim is a young computer scientist, hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project: a plan to map every neural connection in the human brain. But funding for the project is cancelled, and Nasim ends up devoting her career to Zendegi, a computerised virtual world used by millions of people.

Fifteen years later, a revived Connectome Project has published a map of the brain. Zendegi is facing fierce competition from its rivals, and Nasim decides to exploit the map to fill the virtual world with better Proxies: the bit-players that bring its crowd scenes to life. As controversy rages over the nature and rights of the Proxies, a friend with terminal cancer begs Nasim to make a Proxy of him, so some part of him will survive to help raise his orphaned son. But Zendegi is about to become a battlefield . . .

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (14 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575086203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575086203
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 638,098 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.

Product Description

Book Description

SF's top ideas man brings us a thrilling tale of loss and human endeavour.

About the Author

Greg Egan's highly acclaimed science fiction has won him many major awards in the UK, the US and Japan. He lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful speculation 26 Jun 2010
The idea of mapping and uploading human consciousness isn't new to science fiction. Indeed, Egan has explored it in a couple of his earlier novels and in his short stories. Other SF writers have done so too. But Zendegi isn't stale or hackneyed; quite the opposite in fact.

Zendegi is the name of a virtual reality role-playing game whose designers manage to create game characters from partially mapped human minds. They do so for commercial reasons, to give their product an edge in an increasingly competitive VR market place. It's ironic that something so complex and amazing should be applied to such mundane purposes - entertainment and money-making. Egan juxtaposes this scenario with another far more worthwhile one - using a virtual version of a dying parent as way of ensuring that the child doesn't grow up totally without parental guidance. But what are the moral implications of doing this? And what other applications, altruistic or otherwise, might such technology lead to, especially given the increasingly commercial nature of scientific research?

Exploring big questions like these is what great SF is all about, and Egan's treatment of this particular topic is fascinating. Equally fascinating is the setting - a near-future Iran which is now democratic but where religious ideology is still a factor.

By contrast with his previous two novels, Egan balances the science and the storytelling really well, creating believable characters and putting them in a setting that, while speculative, is eminently plausible. There's also a touch of humour where, early in the novel, one of the characters is confronted by a science journalist whose previous works include `The Sociobiology of The Simpsons' and `The Metaphysics of Melrose Place'. Ha ha!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, thoughtful - but still not gripping 1 Aug 2010
By T. D. Welsh TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've always been ambivalent about Greg Egan's science fiction. On the one hand, he is unmistakeably one of the most erudite, intelligent, and thoughtful authors who have ever turned their hand to SF. On the other, his books are decidedly not the kind you can't put down. Gripping, suspenseful, exciting - those are the qualities you do not expect from an Egan novel, and "Zendegi" differs only slightly in that respect. It does differ, because I suspect that Egan has made a big effort to change his style and subject matter, and that does come across very clearly. Whereas many of his previous books are set in the far future, with characters who are barely human or utterly inhuman, "Zendegi" takes place in the very near future (2012-2028, to be precise). And it is set in Iran - the very crucible of today's most agonising political, religious, and cultural disputes. Instead of abstract mathematical and scientific issues of quantum theory or virtual reality, "Zendegi" deals with flesh and blood human beings and their everyday lives. Actually, virtual reality does play a large part in the plot, but Egan brilliantly shows how it might first impinge on ordinary people: of course, as entertainment! I was reminded of Clay Shirky's idea, in "Cognitive Surplus", that TV series are today's equivalent of the gin that lubricated social change in 18th century London. Maybe commercial VR experiences, like the eponymous Zendegi, will be the next step along that path.

I very much wanted to warm to "Zendegi", the more so because of its obvious good-heartedness and worthiness. Unfortunately, a rebellious part of my brain kept on resenting what it saw as Egan's moral lecturing. Perhaps the Iran of today and the next few years was simply too controversial and emotionally charged a background to choose?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three stars 11 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Greg Egan is generally noted and acclaimed for his hard science fiction and more for his short stories than his novels. Zendegi is his newest attempt in more mainstream writing, which means that there is a conscious attempt in creating human characters, a story with emotional arcs, some sociological extrapolations and some more easily accessible science (neural networks and virtual reality instead of hard physics).

Egan has produced at least one similar effort before which, like this one, was preceded by some of his hardest and most technical sci-fi at the time. So, Teranesia, came after writing Diaspora and Distress, two masterpieces that dealt with advanced physics (the former) and advanced AI (the latter). Zendegi comes after Incandescence and Schild's Ladder two efforts of similar focus on fascinating extrapolation to the nth degree but also similar neglect to story and characters.

Hard sci-fi in general is lampooned for its technicality and inattention to classic literature devices and Incandescence in particular drew the scathing review of another novelist (Adam Roberts, who also writes sci-fi, but apparently with less distinction), which Egan took exception to and replied by reviewing the review on his website calling it a hatchet job (I think it sort of was the case, too- also, you can't impose classical literature and stylistic standards on hard science fiction; that would be absurd).

So, Zendegi is here, a significantly more mainstream novel- does it work? Yes and no, with the balance tipping more to the `no' than to the 'yes'. That doesn't mean, however, that it's not a notable effort. I won't describe the story at all, since adequate synopses already exist. Instead, I'll make some comments about what I liked and not liked.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian monotony - sadly not a typical Egan book
I generally look forward to Greg Egan books - he's one of the few authors that produces genuinely mind-expanding stuff rather than the plethora of cyber-space me-toos and plot-free... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Youngs
5.0 out of 5 stars Near future visionary
I read this when it came out, and the description of the revolution foreshadows the Arab Spring events. Substitute Egypt for Iran and it's there. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Stephen Granville
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This is the weakest of the many Greg Egan books I have read. It lacks the imagination of some of his best work and moves away from the kind of hard SF you expect from Egan. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Peter J. Holmes
2.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent but dull.
This is a very morbid and depressing book.

It is a near future book so it isn't hard science-fiction in the same way as most of Egan's books. Read more
Published on 5 May 2012 by plot hound
3.0 out of 5 stars A departure for the master of hard SF...
After reading 'Zendegi' for a while I got worried. Where was the science stretched to the limit of believability? Where were the maths lessons? Read more
Published on 21 Dec 2011 by A. J. Poulter
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so inspired
I found it to be a well crafted book in many ways but it did not really inspire me at all. I would not recommend it.
Published on 4 Dec 2010 by Jayaitch
4.0 out of 5 stars Egan - worth reading
Classic Egan, and well worth reading. The ideas interestinfg and well-explored. But the people are not well-developed. Even the leading character seems thin.
Published on 6 Sep 2010 by John Donaldson
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my type of tale
To be honest this book is a none starter right from the get go. It's pretty mundane, the science within pretty standard and all in all a very weak principle cast member who really... Read more
Published on 13 Aug 2010 by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog
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