Zendegi starts slow and simply, detailing the preparations of Martin Seymour, an Australian reporter, who is about to fly to Iran to cover a parliamentary election. Yet instead of simply covering an election, a scandal befalls an Iranian politician and world-changing events begin to unfold all around Martin. Simultaneously, Iranian expat Nasim Golestani finds herself torn from her work mapping the brains of birds to watch the uprising in her home country. After a jump forward of some fifteen years, the two characters find themselves intertwined in a story involving a virtual reality video game, artificial intelligence, and the realities of mortality.
Greg Egan's book isn't very action-packed, even in the sequences covering the political upheaval. Instead, Egan concentrates on the ideas of mortality and immortality, legacy, tradition, and fear of the new. Ultimately the book succeeds in telling the very moving story of Martin Seymour, the crux being on one man's efforts to make sure he can raise his son even when his life is threatened. We see reflections of this same desire in many of the characters, while Nasim's part of the story tells us much about the implications of trying for a sort of electronic immortality. While not a book for those more in favor of Egan's previous books that are based more on hard science fiction, Zendegi is an excellent little mental exercise with strong characterization of its leads and their all too relatable fears and desires in a near future that seems quite plausible.
Tim @ Central