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Zendegi

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,126 ratings  ·  148 reviews
Martin Seymour is a journalist, sent to Iran to cover the 2012 parliamentary elections. Nasim Golestani, a young Iranian scientist, lives in exile in the United States. She is hoping to be part of the Human Connectome Project, which will work to construct a detailed map of the wiring of the human brain. When government funding for the project is cancelled, she gets the cha ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published 2011 by Gollancz (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  1,126 ratings  ·  148 reviews


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Glenn Russell


Busy street in Tehran, Iran

Mind-mapping, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, personal identity - four pivotal themes running through this captivating Greg Egan novel set mostly in the bustling metropolis of 2027 Tehran, where the country of Iran is now a democracy.

If you are new to Greg Egan, then Zendegi is the perfect place to start - for one very good reason: his vintage hard science elements are contained within the broader context of a work that could be judged literary fiction; in p
...more
David
This was a pretty good science fiction novel about virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and political reforms, made more interesting by being set in a modernized near-future Iran. It's also a fairly hopeful novel, rather than the more dark and gritty scenarios typical of its cyberpunk forebears. The main characters are an Australian journalist who is in Iran to witness the collapse of the old regime and the shaky birth of democracy there, and an Iranian expat neurobiologist who moves back t ...more
Erik
Zendegi is the book equivalent of Michael Jordan quitting basketball to play AA baseball. It’s not that MJ was bad at baseball. It’s just that he was extraordinary at basketball.

Greg Egan is my favorite science fiction author. No other author I’ve read comes anywhere close to his ability to explore fabulous science ideas at their utmost imaginative limits while retaining a sense of plausibility. In my Diaspora review, I wrote: “Reading it brought into my mind a sense of wonder and of sheer visce
...more
Denis
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: do-not-own
I was a few days into this book when after tensions were rising between the US and Iran and a passenger plane bound for the Ukraine (with many Canadians on board) was tragically shot down by Iranian militants. I was not aware that the novel was set in Iran. It was, however, convenient to learn more of the culture and politics of such a topical nation during the time of reading this.

This is my first work from this very talented mysterious Australian scifi author. I say mysterious as he has a rath
...more
Calzean
Set in 2012, the first half of the book revolved around an Australian journalist in Iran covering what turns out to be a peaceful uprising and the replacement of the religious government. The second character was a young Irani data and AI programming expert in the US starting to explore how to turn human thought into code.
15 years later, the book moves onto its second stage. The journalist is married and living in Tehran with his Irani wife and son. The AI research-builder has returned to Tehran
...more
Charles
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Strong starting story with a different setting. Technically strong as is the author's wont. However, it felt half-finished when it ended. ...more
Sandi
Sep 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, sci-fi, 2011
I’m a sucker for a free science fiction novel, especially when it’s an author I’ve heard of and the book is published by a cutting-edge publisher like Nightshade Books. Zendegi was offered free, but would have been worth paying for. If we had half stars, this would get a 3.5 rating. The first half alters between the story of an Australian reporter caught up in an Iranian revolution in 2012 and an Iranian researcher in America who is working on a project to map the human brain. It takes well over ...more
Ami Iida
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Greg Egan's novel is usually intriguing. ...more
Jason
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sci fi fans, Transhuman Space fans
Recommended to Jason by: Wikipedia
Wikipedia mentioned “Zendegi” on the main English page for some reason. I remember seeing it at work, and I read a few sentences before I decided it was a story I wanted to read (partially because I needed something new). I was pleased when I found it in the Kindle store for 0.99 cents. I started on it after I finished “Neuromancer”.

SUMMARY
I really don’t want to give away too much of this story…

The book follows two characters that come into contact about halfway through…

Martin Seymour is an athe
...more
Mark Richard
Dec 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fan

>>>>>>>>>I must have looked at the COVER three or four times to check that the book inside hadnt got mixed up with a book about IRANIAN politics and a very annoying Aussie bloke and his LP collection... I'm sure the Politics of Iran are a joy to read about.... but when you were hoping for a read about some crazy MATRIX type world where regular people can go and live it sounded great.... if you get passed the first 120 pages then maybe it will suddenly become GREAT but I could think of many more
...more
Alan
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ian McDonald fans and cultural imperialists
Recommended to Alan by: A back-page blurb
Greg Egan's foray into near-future science fiction feels like a departure of sorts; his gaze has been focused on much farther horizons of late. But I think this change of pace has turned out to be a really good thing; Zendegi is a taut, plausible future history which, even if it does turn out to be overtaken by events, still partakes of the best of hard sf—rigorous extrapolation from what is known into the dizzying ramifications of what-if.

Martin Seymour is a journalist who goes to Iran just bef
...more
Tomislav
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Australian SF writer Greg Egan is known especially as a hardsf writer, where the science/technology is meant to be realistically speculative. I have found much of his work to be more true to the concepts than to the characters, and of course that limits his appeal beyond a select subset of SF readers. However, this is a singular novel in his bibliography, in which the plot is driven by the characters, even while the science/technology maintains it in the hardsf category. Sort of the best of both ...more
Froggy
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Greg Egan's books usually contain High science fiction, the sort of things that really makes the readers imagination sparkle with the wonder of the ideas they hold. His inclusion of "Wang's carpets" in his book Diaspora, for instance showing how 2 dimensional patterns ever moving on a football field sized map could be extrapolated into complex 3 dimensional beings living in a quite separate reality to the one we observe.

So upon starting to read Zenegi, I had high hopes about advanced intellige
...more
Raja99
Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks-baen
Why I Read This Book: I'm a big fan of Greg Egan, and had been on my local library's waiting list for the hardcover for about a month before it arrived. Then I saw that it'd been added to the Kindle store—and, more to my tastes, Baen's ebook store (where it's cheaper, can be downloaded in several formats, and has no DRM).

I'd rate this 9/10. Egan's previous novel, Incandescence , is set in the far future and is somewhat inaccessible as a result. Zendegi has two parts; the former is set in the
...more
Ben Payne
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a near-future SF novel, set in Iran, dealing with the potential precursors for intelligent AI. It's possibly the most human book I've read of Egan', and certainly one of the most accessible. The science is definitely more background, here, compared to some of his far-future books, and the novel focuses more strongly on character. I've often thought criticism of Egan's characterisation was unfounded; to me he writes very believable, intelligent, three-dimensional characters, and that's ve ...more
Derek
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, computers
When Greg Egan is good, he's great, and this one is a keeper.

Intertwining a perfectly believable near-term future of Iran with highly realistic experimentation into artificial intelligence, it covers human (and AI) rights, life extension, ancient Farsi stories, virtual realities and what it means to be a family; blending it all seamlessly into a touching narrative.

As a computer geek, I'm always eager to read stories about artificial intelligence, and naturally have a pretty high threshold of bel
...more
Ron Henry
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5* Well-written, thoughtful, and sad story of Middle Eastern politics and the implications of modeling human minds (or characteristics of human minds) using virtual reality software (the title, "zendegi," means "life" in Farsi and also partly refers to the "Zendegi-ye Behtar" ("Better Life") VR system which many of the book's characters either help design or participate in. Well-drawn characters; my only real complaint about the book was that the ending felt somewhat abrupt. ...more
Robin
Oct 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I checked the other reviews, and most people like this book. I freakin' hate it! It's all about Iranian politics, which are boring, boring, boring! And a lot of morally superior crap, which I hate even more than Iranian politics. It's also not so very science fiction-y; my husband ( who is a patent lawyer) tells me more interesting things than this book imagines. I'm two thirds in and giving up on it. ...more
Mitchell
Wow. A lot in this one. Too much. And too complicated. First of all lots of near future guess of politics in Iran. But it doesn't quite depend on it coming out a particular way. It does make some guesses as to Human Uplift and AI and online virtual games. But when it gets to the virtual game part of the story it slows down to far. And Martin and his son don't exactly ring true. Still, looking forward to trying another by the author. 3.5 of 5. ...more
Scott Beck
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really confused by this book being near future small scale sci-fi. I was sure it wasn't an Egan book at all but misspelled.

Still a good story but I prefer his larger scale stuff.
...more
Jon
It's a little hard to believe that I've never, to the best of my knowledge, read anything by Greg Egan before. I saw this little number at the library and thought I should give it a try. It reminds me a lot of some of the early William Gibson cyberpunk novels, in a good way.

Zendegi takes place in the very near future. In fact, it begins in the early years of the Obama administration, apparently, and Egan makes note of the inaccuracies in the world situation that is portrayed here in his afterwo
...more
Ryan
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting Greg Egan book which makes an *excellent* audiobook. It's set in a post-Iranian reformation Iran, in a world with interesting VR and AI. As an audiobook, it's even better, since it's read by a Persian woman; it's cute how she gets all the Farsi words right and then has trouble with some of the more obscure English words.

Amusingly, it was written in 2009; I was going to fault it for being too "of the minute" if it had been written today. 6 years ago, it was fairly prescient.

U
...more
Tim
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This one was.. different. Not super spaced out hard sci-fi like most of Egan's work, but quite down to Earth and essentially near future. I was worried this may turn out to be another one of Egan's works I didn't like: Teranesia. I found it too close to home and too far away from Egan's wheelhouse. Happy that these first impressions were wrong.

The story is primarily set in Iran and steeped quite deep in Iranian culture, which for those not versed in it could be considered other-worldly enough to
...more
C
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Writen in 2009, set in 2012 and 2029, read in 2017.

Writing near future stuff is hard, so it's even more amazing how well he nailed the filter bubble phenomena (2 years before it was even named), and the rise of Fake News.

The sfnal part of the story follows a former academic who's returned to her native Iran, and joined the private VR gaming sector, and explores the practical / philosophical implications of building sophisticated chat-bots that may be stepping stones to artificial conciseness or
...more
Paul moved to LibraryThing
I assume America in this near future has strapped a jetpack to the continent and blasted off into space. I think it would be less jarring if the story was set in the future democratic North Korea (at least that's just one war away from normalcy). I don't mind the focus heavily shifted from sci-fi to the father-son relationship but the whole socio-political story around it was tiresome and the overall saccharin levels made the premise feel more contrived. Please, more planet consuming AIs, fewer ...more
Chris Aylott
Egan's polished story of Iranian culture and unrest makes me wish it wasn't science fiction. By that, I mean I liked the characters and situations, but the science and technology aspects felt like window-dressing. It was interesting stuff, but I would have been just as happy to read a similar story set in a completely realistic modern-day setting. Egan's books presumably sell more with a genre label, but this didn't need to be a genre book. ...more
Pat
Nov 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First chapter was basically the main character digitizing his vinyl collection and how to do it and how he needed to check some levels I didn't bother to check when i digitized mine; and how this somehow proved something profound about ... Okay, I forget. I found myself deeply uninterested in any of the characters or the politics or the situation and dnf'd. ...more
Scott
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read with a thought provoking topic. The evolution of the technology allowing NPCs to seem more human is believable and the characters we follow are themselves interesting, flawed and sympathetic. I would very much like to see where Egan thinks this world would go next.
Paul Sargent
some very interesting ideas on how we could start copying/simulating certain aspects of a humans psyche digitally but overpowered by a lot of iranian politics and fairly drab human/family issues.
doesnt even hold a small candle to his earlier works
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1,717 followers
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
...more

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“If Zendegi was a frivolous indulgence, well, it was there alongside every other beautiful, forbidden thing that her contemporaries have risked their lives to regain” 1 likes
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