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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 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.
Egan really thinks through his characters: both his protagonists have fleshed out motives and lives. The minor characters, too, rise above spear-carriers and stereotypes.
The book is quiet in that most of the protagonist's actions aren't the nexus of world-wide change -- they are seeking personal goals in a rapidly changing world. Most of the philosophical points arise out of, and after, the character's actions. Only one of the minor characters (Dinesh) knows what he wants, goes for it, achieves his original objective, and changes the world as a result -- everybody else does their job first and thinks about it later.
I enjoyed it, but the book needs a little more tension and uncertainty to drive the reader forward.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mindbending. And it is not because so many words are spelled in Farsi.Published 12 months ago by Andrey
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 18 months ago by jost4566
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 on February 21, 2014 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
Liked the story. It's mainly about human augmentation Aritificial Intelligence and virtual reality. Good reading and not to futuristic. WimPublished on August 22, 2013 by Amazon Customer
Greg Egan has shown some great development as a writer over his career. Without dropping the mind-blowing ideas he skillfully has learned to blend emotion into his narrative... Read morePublished on August 16, 2013 by Gil Pinheiro