Book Review: “Distress” by Greg Egan

Distress by Greg Egan

I gather that this is a republication of a story originally published in 1995.

I read and enjoy lots of fiction, in many styles. But sometimes I want some “hard” science fiction (“with rivets on it”): you know, based on real science, with numbers that add up and technologies that are very, very plausible. Real engineering. Not so many wizards or vampires or magical powers.

Well, my friends, this book is the pure white powder.

The biotech and nanotech are awesomely strange yet completely possible. God I love it!

Many of his extrapolations about the Internet have turned out to be pretty real, though way earlier than he guess back then.   His geopolitical back story tends to run on, and feels very out of date, his rendition of a technology-enabled “off-shore, anarchist” retreat are surprisingly current. Check out the cryptocurrency discussion threads to see this idea coming at you.

He spends some time on interesting permutations of sexual identity, and technological manipulations to let people do their own things. He gives us a half dozen ‘sexual identities’ or more, and these ideas are only more timely than when he originally wrote about them.

Unfortunately, the plot hinges on supposed developments in grand physical theories, and the supposed public reactions to them. The former is not that interesting, and the makes little sense—no one cares that much. Seriously, we didn’t need so many pages of yammering about it.

Bottom line: read this book for the technological speculation, and put up with the yammering about Theories of Everything (TOEs).


  1. Greg Egan, Distress, New York, Night Shade Books, 2015.

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