by Greg Egan



“All right. He’s dead. Go ahead and talk to him.”

The bioethicist was a laconic young asex with blond dreadlocks and a T-shirt which flashed up the slogan SAY NO TO TOE! in between the paid advertising. Ve countersigned the permission form on the forensic pathologist’s notepad, then withdrew to a corner of the room. The trauma specialist and the paramedic wheeled their resuscitation equipment out of the way, and the forensic pathologist hurried forward, hypodermic syringe in hand, to administer the first dose of neuropreservative. Useless prior to legal death — massively toxic to several organs, on a time scale of hours — the cocktail of glutamate antagonists, calcium channel blockers, and antioxidants would halt the most damaging biochemical changes in the victim’s brain, almost immediately.

Andrew Worth is a science journalist with optic nerve taps and a gut full of memory chips. Burnt out after completing a documentary on controversial developments in biotechnology, he turns down a chance to report on a baffling new mental disorder known as Distress and instead takes an assignment covering the Einstein Centenary Conference on the artificial island of Stateless. There, a young South African physicist, Violet Mosala, is expected to unveil her candidate for a Theory of Everything.

But the assignment is not the tropical respite Worth was expecting. While the politics surrounding the creation of Stateless grows more turbulent, and ignorance cults stage protests against the gathering scientists, a secretive group known as the Anthrocosmologists, with some very strange ideas about the Theory of Everything, begin to enact their own agenda.

Publication history

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Distress / created Monday, 7 June 2010
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