Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Zendegi - Greg Egan

Novel

Number of words : 110000
Percent of complex words : 11.1
Average syllables per word : 1.5
Average words per sentence : 24.1


READABILITY INDICES

Fog : 14.1
Flesch : 53.5
Flesch-Kincaid : 11.8


PEOPLE

Martin Seymour

An Australian foreign correspondent who gets an assignment in Tehran and ends up staying.

Nasim Golestani

An Iranian computer researcher in the USA who returns home after political changes. Also a cousin of Mahnoosh.

Javeed Seymour

Martin's young son.

Alice

A friend of Martin's.

Annie Lennox

Singer for the Eurythmics.

Liz

Martin's ex.

Peter Cook

A comedian and actor.

Haroun

A passenger on a flight who gives Martin music software advice.

Dariush Ansari

Founder of Hezb-e-Haalaa. Is killed.

Omar

Martin's neighbour and friend who will care for his son.

Hassan Jabari

A high-ranking Iranian jurist and politician who gets caught with a trans prostitute. Member of the Guardian Council.

Shoukouh

The trans prostitute whom Martin and Omar help.

Shah

A former ruler of Iran.

Ayatollah Khomeini

A former ruler of Iran.

Behrouz

Martin's fellow journalist, a local.

Kambiz

A student Martin met in the run-up to the election.

Zahra Amin

A reporter from the reformist weekly Emkaanha.

Fariba

A Tehran University student Martin interviews during a demonstration.

Majid

An accounting student demonstrator.

Jane Frampton

A science journalist and author of The Sociobiology of The Simpsons and The Metaphysics of Melrose Place.

Nate Caplan

A brilliant entrepreneur who approaches Nasim - fancies living forever via technology.

Professor John Redland

Faculty on the HCP.

Christopher

IT Tech support for the HCP.

Judith

Co-worker of Nasim's.

Mike

Co-worker of Nasim's. Recently dumped his girlfriend.

Shen

Co-worker of Nasim's.

Melville

An American author.

Proust

A French author.

Dinesh

A co-worker of Nasim's who comes up with HETE.

Sandra Knight

A foreign correspondent.

Mahnoosh

A march organiser who gives Martin information and later becomes his wife.

Rana

Omar's wife.

Mohsen

Rana's father-in-law.

Farshid

Rana and Omar's son.

Zachary Churchland

An octogenarian oil billionaire who had raised the possibility of funding his own brain-mapping project. Also fancies living forever via technology.

William S. Burroughs

An author.

Congressman Fitzwaller

Chairman of the Select Committee dealing with the HCP.

Kourosh Ansari

Brother of Dariush. Becomes President.

Mossadegh

An Iranian prime minister ousted by Churchill and Eisenhower and the CIA.

Karim

A young man who’d spotted Martin taking pictures near Abadan.

Nasim's mother

Left Iran when her husband was executed. Writes a book called After Oil and is headhunted by Kourosh Ansari as an adviser for the new Iran.

Donald Rumsfeld

Dodgy American politician.

Vin Diesel

An actor making a comeback The Chronicles of Kulos, to be shot in the Negev.

Robert Smith

Singer for The Cure.

Bahador

Nasim's chief engineer at Zendegi.

Nahid

Rana's mother-in-law.

Azimi

Iranian football captain and ex-player for Hoffenheim. Mapped as software for a Zendegi game as Virtual Azimi.

Gita Razavi

A critic for Generation 2012.

Michelle Bello

PR for the BSBSP.

Conrad Esch

Director for the BSBSP.

Farah, Chalipa, Asa and Azita

Women used in Nasim's Blank Fariba proxy testing.

Mark and Rachel

Australians who came to Martin's wedding.

Hojatoleslam Shahidi

An anti-AI cleric.

Dr Jobrani

Treats Martin's cancer.

Tim Ritchie

A 1980s 2JJJ presenter.

Reza

Man who buys Martin's shop on Enqelab Avenue to turn into a gym.

Solzhenitsyn

Russian author.

Dr Zahedi

Helps with the Martin proxy recording.

Jafar Falaki

Of Falaki Associates. Looks into the Zendegi security breach.

Arif Bahrani

A tech worker with Zendegi.

Milad

A Zendegi programmer.

Hamid

Nasim's ex-husband.

Bernard

Helped Martin with the scanning, planning on staying in Iran.

Rollo

The CHL hacker who meets with Nasim.

Ali and Zahra

A murdered Afghan family Martin knew in Bamyam Province.


MEDIA

Devo

A band.

The Residents

A band.

The Virgin Prunes

A band.

Elvis Costello

A singer and guitarist.

The Smiths

A band.

Eurythmics

A band.

Touch

A Eurythmics album.

Talking Heads

A band.

The Cure

A band.

The Pretenders

A band.

Paul Kelly

An Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist.

St Kilda to King's Cross

A Paul Kelly Song.

To Her Door

A Paul Kelly song about a break-up and reconciliation.

You Can't Take It With You

A Paul Kelly Song.

The Slave Girl and the Caliph

A story in Arabic.

Saturday Night Live

An American weekly comedy tv show.

Al Jazeera

Arab news channel.

IRIB

Iranian broadcaster.

You Can't Hurry Love

Song covered by Phil Collins.

Run Run Run

Hunters and Collectors song.

Dancing Queen

An ABBA song.

Hunters and Collectors

An Australian band.

Rusholme Ruffians

A Smiths song.

Teddy Bear

An Elvis Presley song.

Enter Sandman

A Metallica song.

LOLCat Diaries

A movie.

The Moor's Last Sigh

A Salman Rushdie novel.

U2

A band.

Shahnameh

A thousand year old Persian epic, popular in Zendegi. Martin and Javeed play this.

Murder in Manolos

A gossipy VR whodunnit set among North Tehran’s Mall Princess cliques.

Midnight Oil

An Australian band.

Carry Me

A Hunters and Collectors song.

Jailhouse Rock

A song covered by The Residents.

The Grapes of Wrath, Animal Farm, Catch-22, and Slaughterhouse-Five

Novels Martin chooses to keep dead tree versions of for his son as he sells his shop.

The Diary of Anne Frank, Down and Out in Paris and London, and The Gulag Archipelago

Non-fiction Martin chooses to keep dead tree versions of for his son as he sells his shop.

Harmony

A VR SF soap opera game.

Minions of Eblis

A Zendegi game.

Bedazzled

A Peter Cook deal with the devil movie.



TECHNOLOGY

Audacity

Open source sound editing software.

Groundhog Cage

Software Alice constructed that made thirty-day free-trial software think it was always on the first day of the trial.

Shalwar kameez

Iranian garment.

HCP

Human Connectome Project. A brain mapping project that Nasim worked on.

AcTach

A reality-mining plug-in that learns about academic networking using physical proximity, along with email and calling patterns.

Tinkle

A femtoblogging service going through a beta trial.

Murmur

A lower-level platform that Tinkle and AcTach run on.

Lichtman-Livet-Sanes ‘Brainbow’ technique

Making neurons that fluoresce.

ATLUM

An Automatic Tape-collecting Lathe Ultra Microtom. A brain peeler used for mapping the grey matter..

Human Excrement Treatment Ecosystems

The aim of the HETE project was to develop a whole portfolio of microbial communities that could render human waste safe in almost any situation, with an absolute minimum of labour and no expensive infrastructure.

Slightly Smart mobile phones

Can do mesh networking.

PowerFlirt and HookMeUp

Speed dating software that works via location of the person.

Zendegi

A mutiplayer online virtual reality that Nasim works for.

Cyber-ketab

An ebook reader.

Blank Frank

A new computer Proxy and AI Nasim works on using her old research, to make it more advanced and capable of better reactions.

Blank Fariba

As Blank Frank, but a female version.

Ghal'eha

VR stations people rent time on in shops.

Proxies

Computer generated characters in virtual reality.



ORGANISATIONS

Eikonometrics

Swiss company who want to see if they can classify images by flashing them on a monitor subliminally and looking at the viewer’s brain activity.

Hezb-e-Haalaa

Iranian political party. Literally the Party of Now.

Hezbollah

The ‘Party of God’.

Guardian Council

Fascist fundamentalist ruling body in Iran.

Majlis

Iranian political body.

VEVAK

The Iranian intelligence service.

Basijis

Iranian militia thugs.

Hungry Mind Cafe

Near the HCP.

House Select Committee

Group of US politicians that deal with a particular area of importance.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

Used to control Abadan.

MEK

The Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the People’s Army of Iran - a nationalist group formed in opposition to the Shah.

Ministry of the Interior

Iranian government department.

Iranian-American Friendship Council

Nate Caplan donates to them to try and get Nasim on side.

Benign Superintelligence Bootstrap Project

Wants to start off an AI singularity.

Alcor

A cryonics company. Have Zachary Churchland's corpsicle.

People of the Book

Martin's bookshop.

Cyber-Jahan

Succesful major VR competitor of Zendegi's.

Happy Universe

Another VR provider.

Crowds and Power

Games effect subcontractor.

CHL

The Cis-Humanist League. Opposes the Zendegi AI research and hacks the environment.

FLOPS House

A computing service provider in Europe.



PLACES

Tehran

Capital of Iran.

Changi Airport

In Singapore.

Glebe

Suburb of Sydney.

Valiasr Street

One of Tehran's main thoroughfares.

Quetta

Pakistan city.

Ferdowsi Square

Site of an election demonstration in Tehran.

Shiraz

Site of a big demonstration in Iran while Nasim is in the US.

Jomhuri-ye-Eslami Avenue

A broad, elegant street, with a stately row of fountains where it met Baharestan Square in Tehran.

Cinema Europa and Cinema Hafez

In Tehran.

Saf Street

A protest march detour.

Sa'di Station

In Tehran.

Reagan Airport

In Washington DC.

Abadan

Ansari's birth town. Fifty kilometres inland from the Persian Gulf.

Arvand River

Renamed Shatt al-Arab when you crossed it. Goes to Southern Iran. Upstream is Basra.

Evin Prison

On the line where the northern suburbs of Tehran gave way, abruptly, to the Alborz Mountains.

Khavaran Cemetery

Where Behrouz's murdered brother was buried.

Section 240

A political wing of Evin prison.

Karbala

City in Iraq.

Kashmir

Indian-Pakistani region.

Bamyan

A province in Afghanistan.

Houston

US city and site of an anti-AI terrorist attack.

Kabul

Capital of Afghanistan.


CONCEPTS

Farsi

Persian language.

Dari

The Afghani dialect of Farsi.

Noruz

The Persian New Year.

Urdu

Pakistani muslim language.

Femtoblogging

Like microblogging, only snappier. It tells everyone in your network where you are and how you’re feeling, once a minute.

Thirty-Second Pitch

A thought game about selling yourself to a company with outlandish ideas.

Bioinformatics

The application of statistics and computer science to the field of molecular biology.

Sufi

A religion.

Muezzin

Person who leads the call to prayer at a mosque.

Velayat-e-faqih

Religious role of Iranian clerics as guardians of society.

Simorgh

Mythological giant bird with a dog's head.

Zal

An infant the Simorgh thinks looks tasty but decides to rear instead.

News Five Point Oh

Current iteration of journalism in the 2020s.

HigherTribe

Worse than News Five Point Oh.

Ta'arof

Ritual of gift giving and refusal.

Toman

A toman was ten Iranian rials. Five million tomans was about ten thousand US dollars.


ANIMALS

Zebra finch

A type of small bird. Lots of them used in the HCP.


FOOD

Ragout

A stew.

Khoresht sabzi

An Iranian fried meat and vegetable dish. http://www.iranchamber.com/recipes/meat/khoresht_qormeh_sabzi.php



PLOT

A simpler book for Egan.

This one follows two characters. Martin, an Australian journalist and foreign correspondent in Iran, and Nasim, an Iranian researcher studying artificial intelligence in the USA.

While Martin is there a conservative Iranian politician is caught with a tranvestite hooker. An even which becomes a trigger for protest and for the reformers to bring enough pressure to bear on the corrupt power-hungry regime of the mullahs to force elections and constitutional change.

It then skips forward in time to where Martin has married an Iranian woman he met during this time, and they have a son. Nasim moved back to help with the new Iran, along with her mother, and now works for a virtual reality MMO called Zendegi. She is also a cousin of Martin's wife.

Other organisations work towards superintelligent AI.

A breakthrough leads her to putting some of her old academic research to use in building proxy personalities for use in gaming. When Martin's wife is killed in a car accident, and he is diagnosed with serious liver cancer, he asks for Nasim's help in trying to build a proxy personality of him to help raise his son, who is still under double figures.

As the sophistication of these artificial personalities grows, so does opposition to them - on both religious and 'you will put a lot of us out of work' grounds.



4 out of 5

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