Egan, Greg. Distress. London: Millenium, 1996. 342pp.
Australian Greg Egan is one of the best kept secrets in modern science fiction. Although he hasn't won any major awards yet, his stories are a fixture in the various year's best anthologies (see Dozois/Hartwell review).He writes the wildest of wild ultra-hard SF, usually revolving around grand metaphysical or scientific speculations, peopled by well-drawn and sympathetic characters engaged in dramatic moral and intellectual struggles. In other words, his novels and stories have something for everyone. Distress is set about 100 years in the future and follows science journalist Andrew Worth as he covers a conference where a controversial physicist is about to unveil her Theory of Everything, or TOE, which is a theory which seeks to explain all phenomena in the universe. Needless to say, there are terrorist and rival scientific groups which don't like her or her ideas. Worth, of course, gets caught up in all this. As a result, he gets kidnapped and/or threatened a few times and in the process discovers the secrets about the nature of our universe and how human observation affects that universe. Mind blowing stuff, not for the faint of heart but full of all the things that really puts the SCIENCE into science fiction.