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Reasons to be Cheerful

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  136 ratings  ·  11 reviews
A 12-year-old boy develops a deadly brain tumor that inadvertently floods his system with Leu-enkephalin, the neuropeptide that triggers happiness. Unwaveringly optimistic at his chance of survival, the risky surgery that saves his life also ends the euphoric bliss, leaving his brain with a cavernous hole where the pleasure centers used to be. The 18 years of sadness that ...more
Kindle Edition, 32 pages
Published September 25th 2003 by Fictionwise Classic (first published April 1997)
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Glenn Russell

"In September 2004, not long after my twelfth birthday, I entered a state of almost constant happiness. Whenever I ran - and I ran everywhere - it felt good." So speaks Greg Egan's protagonist to kick off this highly imaginative, philosophical forty-pager entitled Reasons to be Cheerful.

Such a joy to be a happy, energetic twelve-year-old. But then crisis hits - as thirty-year-old narrator Mark recounts, a MRI scan revealed there was a specific reason for his constantly feeling elated: pressure f
J.G. Keely
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
As we pass into the reality of a cyberpunk future, and stories about brain-hacking move away from down on their luck noir-types in trench coats infiltrating space stations, it starts to feel like the future of the genre will simply consist of various rewrites of Flowers for Algernon--which I am surprisingly okay with. Certainly, we're bound to get uninspired rehashes, like Speed of Dark , but we'll also get more interesting looks, like this one from the famously anonymous Aussie Hugo-winner.

Peter Tillman
This is one of Egan's best shorts, and if you've never read it, you should. A fine entry point to his short fiction. Collected in Luminous (Collected Stories #2), which is available for Kindle for $3. You'll get your money's worth from this story alone. Trust me on this.

Steve Fink's is the best review I saw here:

Other reprints (many):
Steve Fink
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of Egan's greats, one that keeps coming back to me over and over. It may be the most thought-provoking short story I've ever read. I also feel like it's not just intellectual hypothesizing -- the ideas in this story are relevant today, and are rapidly becoming more and more important every day.

Read up on happiness set point theory and associated controversy. Our reasons to be happy are not at all what we imagine them to be, and the questions the protagonist is forced to address in this story
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What does it mean to find happiness in something? If you had a dial that would let you change your mental reactions to _anything_ in the world, would you? If you did, would you still be you?
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For many months I've had this short story saved on my desktop, and I don't recall how I encountered it in the first place. Initially I wondered if this was an autobiographical tale, as it all seemed like something that could really have happened. Shortly after, technology that is as of now still impossible emerged and the science fiction became more palpable. Nevertheless, for all the currently impossible things that happened in the story, it all felt surprisingly, dare I say 'worryingly', convi ...more
Gursimran Singh
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What if you could actually decide what you find enjoyable?

Reasons to Be Cheerful almost reads like an actual, personal account in the beginning. Thoroughly grounded, in a way, and quite thought provoking. Egan really knows how to deliver compelling ideas in a short story format (and also in a novel-length medium).

You can knock it out in a sitting, but it's interesting enough to make you linger.
Phoebe Lynn
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent short, speculative fiction work. Solid understanding of some of the potential science involved without overly egregious technobabble. Lovely ideas explored, while none were too shocking I was definitely intrigued and inspired to muse to myself on some of the implications. Mr. Egan uses his narrative very well, and knows how to intersperse good, visceral detail with character thought to smoothly encourage the flow of the reader. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for his other short ...more
Apr 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Great little short story about the true nature of pleasure and happiness, done with the trademark Egan scientific spin. Good stuff!
Teo 2050

Egan G (1997) Reasons to Be Cheerful
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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

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