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(Subjective Cosmology #3)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,888 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Investigative reporter Andrew Worth turns down a documentary on a mysterious new mental illness -- "Distress, " or acute clinical anxiety syndrome, for another assignment. He's on his way to the artifical island of Stateless, where the world's top physicists are gathering to decide on a new TOE, or Theory of Everything, to replace Einstein's outmoded legacy.Chief among the ...more
Paperback, 456 pages
Published February 1998 by Eos (first published 1995)
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Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
I may just be saying this because I'm intoxicated by the warm afterglow of the ending, but I think this is one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. At the very least, I'm now excited to read the rest of Egan's work.

Of this novel's virtues, the most important to me is that its plot is driven by scientific and philosophical concepts. Too much science fiction works the other way around -- the author begins by inventing whatever magical plot device they need, and then proceeds to "just
Paul Bryant
Nov 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-novels-aaargh
This one was too much for my poor old brain. After a razzledazzle first chapter which jumped out of the page and danced me around the room yelling in my ears all the while, it settled dowm to a steady bombardment of heavy heavy scientific concepts which may or may not make sense to some folks but left me burbling and drooling slightly

This is what I mean:

The whole point of moving beyond the Standard Unified Field Theory is that, one, it's an ugly mess, and two, you have to feed ten completely ar
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 magi
Apr 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: tk, dwayne
Holy cow. There have been only a few books that have caused my brain to start shorting out and cause me to go into a weird spiritual state where I actual feel some connection to some university unity.

They are:

Zero: understanding how our understanding of math helped us understand our place in the universe

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: Trying to keep up with the word games around quality and duality in this book was astounding.

Why God Won't go away: a book that explains the four states
Mikael Kuoppala
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I really don’t know how to approach “Distress”. The novel is just so completely full of everything utterly brilliant that writing a reader review on it seems a task tragically overwhelming. Greg Egan is perhaps the best sci-fi author out there, and this is a wonderful tour de force even from him.

The novel is basically a cosmological thriller(!) about a summit where the accurate ultimate Theory of Everything aka TOE is expected to emerge. The protagonist is Andrew Worth, a science journalist who
Ami Iida
May 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: scifi
frustrated the thick book................finished.
at that time Greg Egan wrote Rough cutting novels.
I recommend you to read his novels after it.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Distress is the best sf novel that I read this year.Egan's masterpiece proves beyond reasonable doubt that scientist write the best science fiction.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Rae
Shelves: fiction, scifi
From the very first sentence, ‘Distress’ is an arresting and thought-provoking novel. The point of view character, Andrew, is a documentary film-maker. This very useful conceit allows for lengthy explanations of technologies and discussion of their implications, often in a pleasant interview format. The setting is 2055, while the novel was first published in 1995, twenty years ago now. I think it has aged remarkably well, predicting total ubiquity of the internet, handheld computer/phones (‘note ...more
Peter Tillman
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
I think I'll dispense with the plot summary this time - if you like Egan,you've read a review or two by now. If not, look nearby.

What I'll try to convey instead - since the reviews I saw didn't - is a sense of the richness and density of invention here. Egan is one of our very best, and he's playing the hard-sf game with a taut net and a wicked backhand...

"A spasm passed thru the victim's body. A temporary pacemaker was forcing his damaged heart to beat - operating at power levels that would poi
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
If this book was made into a movie (and it will not be), the tagline could be: "We're theoretical cosmologists. We get it right or universes die." Because that's what this is: a suspenseful thriller based on physics, metaphysics, philosophy, and cosmology. Admit it, you're impressed.

So. In Distress, a disaffected science/pseudoscience journalist goes off for what should be a peaceful, easy assignment: a documentary on a physicist who is about to announce her Theory of Everything. Except, well, s
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
I think, if you like Distress, you'll probably like The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang, and vice a verse.
Although they are different. Distress is about physics theories, Lifecycle is about AI and morality. Distress prefers to talk of science and topology rather then shooting and running. Lifecycle has no shooting and running at all.

I think, if you like Distress, you'll probably like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky. not sure about vice a verse. MoR is
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
A whole new sense to "hard SF". "Hard SF" usually means Science fiction that tries to take very few liberties with Science, sticking to what is known to be, or expected to become, possible. Egan takes it a quantum leap beyond - the science is HARD! If you can wrap your head around it, though, it's worth the effort.
Jason Young
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, fiction
Written 20 years ago, but it feels like it could have been written 2 weeks ago. I love the world and subtle things in this book, the plot though is another story. I don't know that I liked it during the unfolding, but the epilogue ties it together, and more than anything it is a fascinating thought experiment that is a bit of a trip.
Invadozer Misothorax Circular-thallus Popewaffensquat
Distress is a hell of a book. It starts off with a bang, slows down
in the middle and then speeds up again to great speeds into the end
page. I couldn't set it down after page 320. Main character Worth is
a reporter that does documentaries on different scientific and psyche
subjects. He's wrapping up a docu on `Junk DNA' which happens to
include one of the most intriguing (and barely brushed on characters
in this story) people, a guy named Landers. His body is a one-man
biosphere that doesn't need oxyg
Cualquier persona que lea por primera vez a Greg Egan y coja este libro sale corriendo y no vuelve a mirar atrás. Una vez que sabes cómo es Egan, y que te puedes esperar, el libro ya es otra cosa. Teniendo claro que leer a Egan siempre tiene un toque de masoquismo que es lo que le da la vidilla,

Prepárate para una novela completamente conceptual y abstracta, no al nivel extremo de Diáspora pero si al rebufo. Todo gira entorno a una supuesta Teoría del Todo en donde las disertaciones sobre la mism
Vladimir Ivanov
May 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Ранний роман Игана, довольно неудачный, на мой вкус; скорее даже не роман, а набор футурологических эссе, формально объединенных под одной обложкой через общего героя-журналиста, который сначала пишет статью про перспективы генинженерии человеческого организма, потом - про проблему адаптации аутистов в обществе, потом - про тонкости устройства коммуны анархосиндикалистов на удаленном острове, и про появление новых гендеров, и про единую теорию всего, и еще, и еще.

В итоге у автора накапливается с
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have only read a few of Greg Egan's books before, but I think this is the one I've enjoyed most so far. My biggest motivation for reading science fiction, is to find new ideas about the physical universe and humanity's place in it. Distress is filled with enough ideas to populate multiple more conventional science fiction novels. To begin with, Andrew Worth is a journalist who is creating a sensationalistic feature about abuses of biotechnology, and his piece consists of four original concepts ...more
Matt Sears
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is the definition of hard science fiction. I will admit that there were a few pages of this book that I 'skimmed' because the physics speeches were over my head, but for the most part this did not impact my reading experience whatsoever. Egan does a good job of being technical enough to get the hard sci-fi fans salivating but balancing it with a great plot filled with intrigue to keep the non-geniuses (ie myself)turning the pages. No, this book is not an 'easy read' but you are rewarde ...more
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to kat by: William
Shelves: read-in-2013
This isn't one of Egan's best, I think -- as always, the mathematical and science ideas are solid (and pleasantly mindblowing), but at times I felt like the story itself was taking a backseat. Extra points for some very positive explorations of gender and sexuality (including having a very sympathetically-written gender-neutral, asexual character who played a large part in the story). It's good overall, solid Egan -- I just thought that, while it started out strong and ended strong, there was a ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: scifi, xcharity-2009
My fav line in the book: "It seems to me your whole approach to these issues reflects a male, Western, reductionist, left-brained mode of thought." This book had cool tech, like raising a murder victim from the dead to ID the killer, gender migration, body sculpting, ifem, imale, umale, ufem, asex, moving your body or brain to match your gender identification (a GBLT paradise?). The whole Distress thing doesn't come in until the end. This book was a 1-star for most of the first 300 pages but got ...more
This book is the very definition of not being subtle - but gosh, did I need it now, did I need all these thoughts about science and culture and religion being spoken out, written down for me to underline. And in a way, it's almost comforting that it was written more than 20 years ago; things did not become much better, but at least we the humanity survived the last 20 years. So maybe there is hope.
Dec 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

La parte de ciencia está muy bien investigada y plantear conceptos en 1995 que hoy día aún están en desarrollo o son problemas reales tiene mucho mérito.

El problema está con lo de siempre: la trama en sí no me acabó de interesar (y mira que la ciencia está bien implicada) y el protagonista me pareció despreciable.

De todos modos, creo que sí que merece la pena leerlo.
Angel Ruiz
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Biotecnología, física, sociología, política, sexualidad, metafísica, religión... Greg Egan nos bombardea con ideas apasionantes y rompedoras sobre todos estos temas en cada capítulo de esta novela, a la vez que arma una trama coherente y emocionante. Ciencia ficción hard de la buena. Definitivamente Greg Egan se esta convirtiendo en uno de mis escritores favoritos.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Probablemente la mejor novela de Egan
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
After enjoying Egan's Quarantine, and being disappointed by Permutation City, I had tentative hopes for Distress. Egan seems obsessed with letting readers know how smart he is with his overly-long explanations. I don't have a problem with explanations per se; the problem is saturation and contrast.

When you have everything explained in minute detail (saturation), it becomes painfully obvious when you reach the limits of Egan's knowledge (contrast). Part of sci-fi is being able to suspend disbelie
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Definitely took a bit to get going - I wondered at one point if it was going anywhere! - but the going was definitely fascinating. My favorite parts of the Egan books I've read so far are when two characters basically debate/discuss a scientific/philosophical concept in conversation. My understanding of the TOE was pretty basic before Distress but I didn't find it to be as over-my-head as Permutation City, where I was pretty much lost by the end of it. I was with Distress the whole way and after ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
The central cosmological idea is funny/silly, but perhaps drawn out too long, it was pretty easy to anticipate what the final resolution would be.

The supporting structure is so-so. I found the viewpoint character a little off-putting, there was a point about 10% in where he lost me and I left the book for a while. But in most of the book he's basically a passive observer. Still, there were lots of places he felt weirdly off.

The sinister plotting is goofy, it kept pinging my skepticism sensors.

Stephane Esquerre
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
L'Enigme de l'univers est complexe à lire.
C'est un thriller autour de la résolution de la théorie du tout qui relie la physique quantique et la relativité générale. Le genre rend l'exploration du sujet très agréable à suivre même si parfois je suis paumé.
L'auteur se permet d'aborder des réflexions variées sur le genre, la maladie mentale, le sexe ou encore l'anarchie avec un angle de théoricien qui essaie d'explorer les limites de ses propositions. Il y a étonnamment beaucoup de tolérance dans
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
**Distress** is another really enjoyable book by *Greg Egan*, part of his very loosely connected **Subjective Cosmology** trilogy. It's less "weird" than the other two parts, and might make a better starting point for interested readers. We accompany our protagonist, a scientific journalist, to a phyics conference on an anarchist island – less happens than in th other books, but that just finally leaves room for better characters and characterisations. The whole book, especially its increasingly ...more
Scire Estdivinum
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some very interesting ideas in this book. The writer obviously has a good understanding across a range of fields, so expect to be referring to Google often. Greg Egan has a lot of ideas he wants to flesh out in this book, the characters and scenes are heavily ladled with them, but it worked for me. The style is refreshingly different enough for the struggle (for me at times anyway) to be well worth it.
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Greg Egan specialises in hard science fiction stories with mathematical and quantum ontology themes, including the nature of consciousness. Other themes include genetics, simulated reality, posthumanism, mind transfer, sexuality, artificial intelligence, and the superiority of rational naturalism over religion.

He is a Hugo Award winner (and has been shortlisted for the Hugos three other times), an

Other books in the series

Subjective Cosmology (3 books)
  • Quarantine (Subjective Cosmology #1)
  • Permutation City (Subjective Cosmology #2)
“I said, ‘The truth is whatever you can get away with.’ ‘No, that’s journalism. The truth is whatever you can’t escape.” 5 likes
“Because sex, drugs, and religion all hinge on the same kind of simple neurochemical events: addictive, euphoric, exhilirating - and all, equally, meaningless.” 4 likes
More quotes…