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Comment: A good, clean ex library issue hardback with a few usual marks has previously protected, clean dust jacket. Rather light handling wear. No other imperfections.
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Zendegi Hardcover – September 15, 2010

3.4 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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.
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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; First Ed edition (September 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597801747
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801744
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Because I'm a big Greg Egan fan I made this book my first Kindle purchase without knowing anything about it. I should have read the two-star reviews here first and saved myself a lot of time and disappointment.

I was hoping for was a hard science fiction story with some action, along the lines of Permutation City. Something with a few mind-bending concepts to chew on and think about. Instead, I got a boring (to me) story about the politics of an imagined Iranian political upheaval mixed with a story about parenting.

The two science main fiction concepts explored were related to potential advances in a shared virtual reality game, mostly revolving around how artificial intelligence can be improved by trying to model human brains. Neither seemed particularly interesting.

All in all, way too much backstory, and my hopes for the final third of the book to get good were in vain.
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Format: Paperback
Greg Egan is a highly regarded scifi author (Hugo award winner) and "Zendegi" (Night Shade Books, $24.95, 279 pages) is a standalone work set in near-future Iran. The plot is secondary to Egan's ethical concerns about computer programs that mimic or even directly copy human behavior, and at what point do those programs deserve to be called "conscious" (whatever that might mean) and should be treated as sentient beings rather than binary slaves.

Unfortunately, Egan's characters never quite snap to life, and the narrative isn't quite strong enough to carry the philosophical burden. But the issues he raises are worth thinking about.
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