On the utopian, man-made island, Stateless, Nobel Prize winner Violet Mosala is close to solving the greatest problem of her career - the quest for the ultimate Theory of Everything (TOE) is almost over.
Burned out by recording the abuses of biotech for his TV news syndicate, Andrew Worth grabs the chance to follow Violet's story. In contrast the world of theoretical physics seems like an anaesthetised mathematical heaven, where everything is cool and abstract.
He could not have been more wrong. One by one Mosala's rival quantum physicists are disappearing from the scientific summit at Stateless. But why? Is it something to do with Violet herself, or is there some other, more esoteric, force at work undermining the Theory of Everything Conference?
This Australian author's inventive and energetic SF (Permutation City, etc.) is receiving belated but deserved recognition in the U.S. Here, in his first American hardcover, Egan imagines a near future of awe-inspiring technology and chilling Frankenscience in which Andrew Worth, science reporter (with videotaping implants) for SeeNet, must explore the mysterious disorder Distress, aka Acute Clinical Anxiety Syndrome. Worth tries to avoid that assignment by traveling to the anarcho-syndicalist bioengineered coral island of Stateless, where he will cover a conference at which Violet Mosala and other physicists will propose their versions of a Theory of Everything. Striking casual detail enriches a fascinating world distinguished by gender reassignment and five new sexes, artificial intelligence clonelets and special interest groups from technoliberation to the Voluntary Autists. The plot offers both adventure and depth, with themes of information, science and human relationships interwoven in complex and often profound ways. Egan is a major voice in SF, and this impressive work should help win him the wide readership he deserves.