Sunday, May 08, 2005


I first heard about Greg Egan in an archived post, Libertarianism and the Hard SF Renaissance, at Armed and Dangerous. He mentioned Diaspora - which I have not yet acquired - but I just finished Distress.

The novel - from 1993 - starts in 2055 and concerns human relationships, theoretical physics and the (possible) destruction of the world served on a generous bed of biotech, anti-science cults and gender migration.

This is the sort of book it's best to catch while it's hot, while the science and technology - of which there is a lot - comes off as plausible and futuristic. The book is now 12 years old... and really all that's different now is that we do carry around electronic notebooks and been more talk of genomes and bioengineering. [I do not mean to imply that the shelf life here is abnormally short, I'm just commenting on one flaw with near-future sci-fi: one human can't know everything that's going to happen.]

The entire novel follows the point of view of Andrew Worth (a journalist, so this is fitting) as he finishes up one documentary project for a science education network and begins work on another. Beneath (and through) this main arc run the various plotlines, some mere red herrings, some elucidating the world Egan has created for his story, some essential to the thriller that develops.

As a thriller, however, it falls a little to the confusing side of exciting - though there are exciting passages. As a presentation of an almost-alien but familiar future (with no actual aliens) packed with futuristic tech it works quite well. It's not necessary to completely understand the (post) modern physics to know what is going on.

Oh well. I hope this has been wild and confusing enough to avoid giving much away but lucid enough to give one an idea of if they might like the book or not. I, for one, did, and am moving Diaspora up on my want list.


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