Distress by Greg Egan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In a lot of ways, this is exactly what I hunt for in SF in general. Give me hard science, slather me in a hundred beautiful hard-science ideas, blow me away with high-tech biotech, computer science... and especially the hardcore physics geekery.
Mind you, this isn't any kind of soft cookie full of throwaway made-up terms. Egan goes for the jugular and explores as much science and possible science and fully-realized future societies changed by total control. Or somewhat total control. Lots of magic bullets for diseases and gene-editing and living by photosynthesis and hardware augments of all kinds including built-in video recording... such as that our MC uses as a reporter.
And all this is just a sweet setup for the beginning of the novel before he switches tracks from biotech to pure physics.
But wait, isn't that a bit too much for readers to digest? Concept after concept?
Oh, sure, probably, but I'm one of those readers who LOVE to be slathered in concepts and be blown away by smarts. :)
Once the novel switches from bio to physics and the hunt for the Theory Of Everything, things get wacky. The part of the world he's sent to is all kinds of Anarcho-syndicalism and what seems to be cults springing up around these leading scientists who are hot on the trail for not just the Grand Unified Theory, but the math model that encompasses everything. They're treating these theoreticians like gods. Or prophets. Or saints.
...And for a rather interesting reason.
This is a novel of Consensual Reality. :) They believe that whoever reaches the most popular model of reality will thereby CREATE that reality. It's a cool-as-hell idea supported by none other than REAL QUANTUM THEORIES. :)
And so we're thrown into a thriller that leads to chaos and warfare, political intrigue, religious nuttery, and no little exploration of sex in the rest of the pot.
I had a great time! I think this was my favorite of Greg Egan's Subjective Cosmology trilogy. Now, I should mention that the trilogy isn't a true trilogy in normal terms. They're a trilogy in theme only. They are very much standalone novels that don't intersect except in the Grand Idea and how much can be delved.
Honestly, I'm kinda blown away here. I expected him to be a rather decent author, but not one who is this adept at so many different fields of study and doesn't mind going wild (or brave) with the Big Ideas.
I've just gone from fan to fanboy. It took a few novels, but once I discovered how much depth and breadth he's willing to go across these few books, I'm honestly amazed. :)
So yeah. I think I'm going to go wild reading everything he's got.
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