|Zendegi is the latest novel by Greg
Egan and continues his themes of consciousness in a digital world and translating the
human mind to that digital world. So far so usual for Mr Egan, however, Zendegi
is not Mr Egans usual take on these subjects.
tells two interconnected stories: that of an Australian ex-patriot journalist Martin
Seymour, now living in Iran, and Iranian researcher Nasim Golestani, who returns to Iran
after living an émigré existence in the United States of America for fifteen or so
Zendegi is an online massive multi-player, multi-scenario
gaming environment that Nasim works for and Martin and his son Javeed adventure in. Nasim
has developed a technique, side loading skill sets (as this is less computer resource
intensive) as distinct from uploading the same, for making the non-player characters,
proxies, more interesting. Martin is dying and desperately wishes to create an in-game
proxy personality to dispense fatherly advice to his son after his [Martins] death.
The novel centres round the tribulations of Nasim and Martin as they attempt to refine the
creation and use of proxies.
In the main Zendegi worked well as a story especially where it
focussed on Martins life and his desperation to create an ersatz personality to
guide his son after Martins death. Where the novel worked less well was in its
exploration of the ethical issues Mr Egan proposed around the development and use of
proxies as in novels past Mr Egan has been a strong proponent of the translation of
human consciousness to a digital environment with the in novel arguments feeling
superficial and simplistic. Fortunately for the reader this novel strand is only a small
plot point coming in near the end of the book and does not impinge on Martins story.
This reader was expecting Zendegi to be another of Greg
Egans stories about living a full on digital life, with the central character making
the transition from corporeal to incorporeal existence. I was pleasantly surprised that Mr
Egan had adopted a different storyline and was even prepared to give arguments against
such a concept. A better than average effort from a better than average author, this is a
book to while away the evenings in lieu of reality [sic] TV and broadcast talent