Having just finished a documentary, journalist Andrew Worth heads to the artificial island of Stateless to cover a physics convention, where African Nobel Laureate Violet Masala is about to present her Theory of Everything. But the island idyll turns out to be anything but, as Stateless has been inundated with anti-science protestors who want to unleash a deadly disease that may destroy the world. Adam Epstein has a methodical approach that allows Greg Egan's impressive world-building to breathe and take shape, but Epstein is best at inhabiting the diverse characters whose clashes and conflict drive the drama in Distress.
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 artificial 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 scientists is the brilliant African Nobel laureate, Violet Mosala, the focus of Worth's story, who is the subject of mysterious death threats. Worth begins his own investigation, but it takes on even more urgency when he finds that Distress, the mental plague now affecting millions, is linked somehow to the approaching "Aleph Moment" when the TOE is finalized.
The countdown has begun for a disaster that will reach all the way back to the Big Bang. And beyond...
©2013 Greg Egan (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
This was all a sad and irritating experience. When I saw that Egan's books were coming to Audible, I pre-ordered this one and expected I would be ordering the rest of the set. Unfortunately, after this rather bizarre reading, I don't think I can handle any more of Adam Epstein. Of the 200 or so audiobooks I've 'read', there have been only a couple that I thought were ruined by the reading. This is one. There are some very interesting ideas and some good science in Egan's science fiction, but Epstein reads this as though it is some goofy teenage comedy. Most of the characters are given cartoon style accents. Even the more serious scientists in the story are given the accents of buffoons. The main character is not so silly, but Epstein uses an odd rhythm (raising the pitch at the end of most sentences) and this also distracts from the reading. A good reader should be transparent and allow the story to flow through. But here, you are constantly wondering why the reader is reading like that. The story itself might be better than four stars, but it is hard to tell. I was too distracted.
Sadly, Epstein was hired to read the other Egan books, so I will reading those the old fashioned way.
Same reader as Permutation City. I believe there is something in the Geneva Convention about not having to listen to this person.
Scott Brick where are you?
While Egan has some great ideas, they're too mired in atheist humanist preaching to rise to the level of anything character driven or even plot driven. You don't need a Christian worldview to tell a good story. Isaac Freaking Asimov signed the Humanist Manifesto. But Egan's disdain of Christianity presses him all the way to the point of making him a caricature of himself on every page. It turns his story into no more than a very wordy rehashing of the Techno Rapture pipe dream---the humanist's "pie in the sky"--all but completely devoid of characters.
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