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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*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