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Zendegi Hardcover – September 15, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
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!Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mindbending. And it is not because so many words are spelled in Farsi.Published 6 months ago by Andrey
It's been a while since I had read a science fiction book (yeah, I'd call it sci-fi) with interesting characters, and an engaging near-future plot that is somewhat familiar with... Read morePublished 8 months ago by o2btravling
Greg Egan always pushes the envelope and this tale is no different. Often, sci-fi authors just jump past the tough parts of technological change. Read morePublished 11 months ago by jost4566
The book's a little slow, but it ends up in an ethical discussion which is valuable and thought-provoking: We shouldn't create "artificial intelligences" which suffer,... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Roger Mastrude
I liked it well enough, but prefer Walter Jon Williams' Dagmar Shaw series and Cory Doctorow's novels for more exciting treatments of similar themes.Published 24 months ago by digitalsynner
The SF book club selected this book and we were not disappointed. As avid SF readers we are a tough audience. Read morePublished on February 2, 2014 by Grace O
I was expecting arid transhumanist gee-whiz, but Egan delivered a touching narrative of believable people living with limits and boundaries.Published on January 1, 2014 by Between Two Parks
What's up with Egan's latest fascination with the middle east? Since being interested in the topic his work has gone way down hill. This book included. Read morePublished on August 30, 2013 by Ryan Schreiber