Book Review – Zendegi by Greg Egan

Zendegi by Greg Egan

Zendegi by Greg Egan

Shockingly, the blurb says:

Set in a near future Iran (where the theocracy has been overthrown, but where Muslim religion still dominates the culture), an Arab/Muslim focused MMORPG gaming company’s cutting edge AI software might hold the key to achieving “uploaded consciousness.”

Martin is an Australian journalist who covered the uprising and overthrow of the Iranian theocracy, and has since “gone native” with a Iranian wife and child. As tragedy strikes his multi-cultural family, Martin struggles to maintain his place in his adapted culture, and to provide for his child.

Zendegi explores what it means to be human, and the lengths one will go to in order to provide for one’s children. This emotional roller coaster explores a non-Western-European near future that both challenges ideas of global mono-culture and emphasizes the humanity we all share.

First of all there were a bunch of spelling errors in the blurb which I have saved you from by correcting.  This is appalling – the name of the book was spelled wrong for goodness’ sake!

I used to have a very high opinion of Greg Egan’s books – he writes a specific kind of speculative concept novel that is mind-expanding and enjoyable.

Unfortunately I was very disappointed with The Clockwork Rocket.  I hoped that he would return to form with Zendegi – and it is a better book – but after introducing a lot of concepts and spending a lot of time building characters it just ends without any resolution.

The parts with the Iranian revolution were immersive and felt genuine.  The feeling of being a stranger in another country rang true and the characters had some depth, although there was a time jump in the middle of the book that yadda yadda’d past a lot of important events.

I’ve said this before about other books, but it really is as if the author got a phone call from his editor saying “you’re past your deadline, just send us what you have” and then they printed it.

It’s especially galling with this kind of book because it’s an idea book, so ending unceremoniously like that makes it a book of half of an idea.