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Distress Paperback – Feb 7 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (Feb. 7 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575081732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575081734
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #581,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By Gregg Silk on Sept. 3 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Very strong start in a familiar city of tomorrow changed by broadband communications and biotech. Interesting character development. Then it goes to a floating island and much time is spent describing its infrastructure and politics. Pretty convential techy sci-fi, minus much action. Many characters, characters lecture each other and posture.
As far as Egan the "idea man," well.....
The scenario of the butchered man revived for questioning is Alfreds Bester's The Stars My Destination.
The mob of New Agers besieging the cosmologists is Isaac Asimov's Nightfall.
And the computer that triggers the end of the universe by calculating ultimate truth is Ray Bradberry's The Nine Million Name of God.
.... All of which were better than Distress
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Not everyone agrees with me (judging by the other reviews), and you may not either, but I find more effective a novel which *shows* me the possibilities of human nature, rather than lecturing me on it.
Egan's other novels (the two i've read) do a much better job of that. But in this one... For the first half of the book, the scenes don't develop the plot at all; they're just triggers for the protagonist to spout another philosophical or ethical lecture. These tend to be not very deep and most of the people reading this book will probably agree with them anyway.
The actual plot doesn't start being developed until page 200 or bette, and when it comes, it may disappoint a lot of hard science readers. The thesis that intelligent beings somehow have a special place in the laws of the universe (rather than obeying the same laws of particles, forces, quantum mechanics, etc. as all other objects) is very weak---much weaker than the similar theme put forth in Egan's other novel "Quarantine".
And in the end, the plot's resolution doesn't come out of the desire to have a good story; it's just a final shot at delivering the main philosophical message (and yes we do get a final "lecture" at the end), which is that it is impossible for people to really understand each other.
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By Omer Belsky on April 17 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Distress is a very unique novel. It is a quest for the intelect, a discussion of the implications of technology on our lives, and even more importantly, discussion about the implications of actual science on life.
If you want to know what the future will be like, Egan is a place to look for inspiration (although not for answers). Egan not only understands technology and science, and not only has the imagniation to forsee the future in ways which are original and thought provoking, but is able to see the social consequences of technology.
Egan's story, especially in the first two thirds of the novel, is an almost entirely successful and constant challange to the mind, in an enjoyable story. Egan's prose is powerful, and you can often enjoy his phrases, and while his minor characters are awfully indistinguishable, the two major ones, Violet Mosala and Andrew Worth, are very well realised and are sympathetic.
The novel contains ideas about the Theory of Everything. The theory of Everything is a unification of Einstein's theory of Relativity and Quantom Mechanics - it's a theory that can explain, at least theoretically, EVERYTHING, from the motions of planets to those of electrons.
The novel doesn't speculate as much about TOE itself, but about the social and psychological and even ethical responses of it, and it does so by introducing a pseudo-scientific religion which glorifies and demonises the descoverer of the theory.
This religion is interesting, but it is one of the two major failure of the novel because (slight spoiler here) it turns up that it is true in a sense. This changes the story from a scientific to a metaphysic one, and pushes us towards the realms of fantasy.
The other major weakness is that Egan's plotting and story elements are relatively poor.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I gave it my best shot, but I guess I'm not a "hard" science fiction fan (if that means all technology and no character development). There was too much technology, or it was presented awkwardly with the narrator introducing concepts/gadgets to the reader with no cultural context or a very rushed development of one. The use of technology in science fiction works best for me when the reader see it's social ramifications. I didn't get that here. All the different cults and scientific organizations seemed very unrealistic, hard to follow and over done. I didn't care about the characters or the story after part one. I had high hopes because the first part of the book was so engaging with technical and emotional depth. Chapter 1, especially, with it's great first line, works so well. It introduces a technology which raises important ethical issues and also strikes an emotional cord with the reader. The other characters in Part 1 where interesting and the situations were engaging. The author then moves the local of the story to Stateless, a manmade Island into he middle of nowhere. This is also where the story and character development went. For me the book took on more than it could present in an interesting way. 2 stars for part one.
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