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Zendegi Hardcover – September 15, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; First Ed edition (September 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781597801744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801744
  • ASIN: 1597801747
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this provocative near-future tale, humans mingle with artificial intelligences called proxies in the virtual world of Zendegi. Shortly after Iranian scientist Nasim Golestani develops a way to make proxies so lifelike that some people believe they should have the same rights as humans, journalist Martin Seymour, an Australian living in Iran, finds out that he might not live to raise his young son, Javeed. He becomes obsessed with finding a way to guide Javeed even after his death and decides that if he could make a proxy of himself, then he could die in peace. Nasim agrees to help him even as proxy rights activists attack her for creating and enslaving conscious entities. Egan (Crystal Nights and Other Stories) creates a thought-provoking, intensely personal story about conflicting instincts and desires as technology recapitulates humanity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Martin Seymour is in Iran to cover parliamentary elections in 2012. They are, as expected, a nonevent, but when a government official is caught in a particularly compromising position, a cascade of world-changing events follows. Nasim Golestani, an Iranian expat living in the U.S. and working on the Human Connectome Project, watches from her distant vantage point, hoping to return as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Martin and Nasim are thrown together 15 years later, when Martin's family is shattered by tragedy. By now Nasim is working on a virtual gaming world called Zendegi. She's developing increasingly complex virtual characters by drawing on her prior research on the brain. Then Martin asks her to try for something that seems impossible, just as conservative politicians are catching wind of the ethical implications of Zendegi. It might look, at first glance, like a plot we've already seen hashed out ad nauseam, but have faith in Egan's ability to create stunning, complex futures, with grand themes given a human dimension: he delivers something extraordinary, with no easy answers. Despite its tragedies, the story is remarkably hopeful and certainly one of the best of its kind. --Regina Schroeder

More About the Author

I am a science fiction writer and computer programmer. You can find information, illustrations and interactive applets that supplement my books at www.gregegan.net

Customer Reviews

Egan blends the technological parts extremely well with the character developments and the political/ethical background.
Oleg
It is a timid novel lacking almost entirely in creativity -- something I never thought I'd see from Greg Egan -- full of dull characters and anemic story telling.
Turing Complete
Sorry Mr. Egan but I'm not impressed that you've learned Farsi and I just don't find Iranian culture all that fascinating.
Chris Fox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mike Fazey on June 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Turing Complete on July 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've loved most of Greg Egan's novels up to this point, and so was eagerly looking forward to Zendegi but unfortunately Greg has dropped the ball this time around. Zendegi is a novel that plays it safe; a dull, methodical, ramble that tries far too hard to present a politically correct view of a future Iran (with some safe, token jabs at obvious targets) and as a result never really goes anywhere. It is a timid novel lacking almost entirely in creativity -- something I never thought I'd see from Greg Egan -- full of dull characters and anemic story telling. The groan-inducing cliché of a (non)ending is simply icing on a horrible cake.

I know Greg means well, he did visit Iran while writing Zendegi (you can find details on his homepage) and his trip notes make for a far more interesting read about Iran and its beauty than you will get from Zendegi. I just wish Greg had had the courage to tell a stronger story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many reviewers have suggested that this book is not up to the same standards as previous Egan's books. Indeed it is not a thousand year later story or it does not happen in a different galaxy. The book is loosely based on the events following the disputed presidential election of 2009 in Iran. Reading through the first chapters, I was wondering how the book would turn into a science fiction novel. But it did. The story is inspired by the near future advances in virtual reality and artificial intelligence and presents some interesting and possibly novel ideas.

Leaving the sci-fi aspects, Egan's portrayal of Iran's culture is noteworthy. While it may not be a true representation of the Iranian society and believes, it is based on many rather factual assumptions.

I personally enjoyed reading the book but I should say that I'm from Iran. I wonder how others deal with many Persian phrases which have been abundantly used in the book but left without any English translation. What stopped me from giving the book five stars was that the story dragged a little long towards the end and that I had somewhat higher expectations from a Greg Egan's sci-fi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bert Claes on November 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great First Part -- scary science fiction about Iran, but falls flat in the second half, completely lost me in the second half... Too bad, it started really great.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Some Bloke on September 21, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have never read Egan. This was therefore his introduction to me. The first part of the novel was not sci-fi - it was simply a bit of reasonably good near future fiction about an unremarkable revolution in Iran - very similar to a reporters' eye view of the recent "Arab Spring" events in Egypt. I enjoyed reading it - it wasn't what I expected but it was pretty good reading.
The second part of the novel concentrates on the same reporter trying to create a "proxy" avatar to guide his son after he dies so that his best friend who will raise the child after his death will not overload him with his (Arabic) prejudices. This was hard work to read in the extreme - the VR world is simplistic and the endless rehash of Arabic stories to be used as parables was painful. The ending was....well... as expected. If the whole novel had been like part 1 I would have enjoyed it much more.
This was good value for $0 - at the end of the day it was better than most of the free books out there. I certainly don't feel shafted on the price, but as a literary work it is Jeckel and Hyde... and ultimately a bit repetitive...I hate that the main character becomes such a whiner...he deserved better.
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