Book Review: Distress, by Greg Egan

Andrew Worth is the journalist of the future, with hardware wired into his eyes and stomach to record what he sees. After finishing work on a show on people adapting their bodies and DNA, he forces his way onto a piece following a scientific conference on an artificial island ruled by anarchy. The conference covers Theory of Everything research in physics, and into this mix come people who believe a TOE would wreck the world, and others who think they can change the way the universe works by choosing who has the final theory which works, but killing all other candidates. Eventually a theory mixing physics with information comes to the fore.

Egan sets up his future world well with the introduction of the character and his disasterous personal relationship with his work on 'Junk DNA', before getting to the main story. 'Distress' - a disorder thought to be linked to an unknown drug/allergic reaction is bought in quite late, though is extremely important to the story as a whole - showing that the Keystone - the person who first understands a full TOE, does exist and will soon hit the keystone event, when the TOE is first read. A good, interesting read with plenty of biology, and some higher level philsopy / physics which is difficult to get your head around.

Title: Distress
Author: Greg Egan
Publisher: Millenium
ISBN: 1857994841 (ISBN for Gollancz version)
Published Date: 1995
Pages: 343

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Review by Paul Silver, 1997