enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Greg Egan, Distress

I read this book about 1-Sep-2009. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1995. This note was last modified Monday, 07-Sep-2009 10:01:15 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This should get the taste of Incandescence out of my mouth.

One of my favorites of his, ranking with Diaspora.

The first-person narrator is a third-rank science journalist, working for a news channel that's very entertainment-oriented (matching the progressive critique of news for the last 20 or so years). To get away from a piece he's not that happy with, he pulls rank and steals a project from another journalist (who it turns out has spent 6 months preparing for it; this becomes important later). He's rather full of self-doubt, a bit like Horatio Hornblower.

There's a not-quite-subplot earlier on where he interviews a Voluntary Autist, and hints in his relationship with his wife (strong dependence on rules, then she leaves him for no reason he sees) that he fits in the involuntary autist class himself. Nothing is ever done with this.

The island of Stateless was built by its founders using stolen biotechnology, and is under boycott by the rest of the world for not honoring biotech patents. Current biotech patenting lets you patent a gene that's existed for millions of years, if you're the first one to sequence it. This is crazy, and will no doubt have crazy results.

Stateless is also a working anarchy. The narrator suggests that it's because they're self-selected, and also because they know that they can turn their home into a living hell, and why would they want to do that? Maybe; but I notice the mechanism by which they decide to destroy their city and drop and (and the mercenaries who have invaded) into the ocean is carefully left offstage, never even hinted at.

The main show, though, is the conference on Theories of Everything. There are cults around who think the results will save, destroy, or pervert mankind forever. And in fact the effects of this understanding of the universe ultimately create it, and have effects stretching all directions in time to creater the disease the book is named for (the result of information mixing between human and computer intelligence). A bit woo-woo for me really, that part.

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David Dyer-Bennet