Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DISTRESS by Greg Egan

DISTRESS

By Greg Egan

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-105264-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

 About 60 years from now, SeeNet journalist and narrator Andrew Worth (he has a camera and computer software hardwired into his body) muscles in on a colleague's assignment to cover a physics convention on the artificial coral island, Stateless, at which Nobel laureate Violet Mosala is expected to announce a watertight Theory of Everything (TOE). The event, however, is complicated by the presence of several noisy anti-science cult groups--among them the mysterious and secretive Anthrocosmologists who believe that whoever first formulates the TOE will become the Keystone in which the completed TOE, mingling information theory with particle physics, will actually change the structure of the universe. Andrew's Anthrocosmology contact, Akili Kuwale, a ``gender migrant'' (s/he has no breasts or sexual organs), warns that a particularly violent, extreme faction intends to assassinate Violet to prevent the Aleph Moment when the completed TOE's effects kick in. Soon, Andrew falls sick--the extremists have infected him, intending that he pass the virus on to Violet; she falls ill, but has arranged for supercomputers to complete her calculations and disseminate the results. As the extremists redouble their violent efforts, Stateless's former owners send mercenaries to recapture the island, while a sort of reverse echo of the Aleph Moment results in a wave of mass insanity, or Distress, whose victims apparently have all turned into Keystones! Challenging, well informed, and iconoclastic, but also abstruse and often heavy: admirable rather than enjoyable, but an impressive first hardcover nonetheless.