By Greg Egan
Nasim is a young computer scientist, hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project: a plan to map every neural connection in the human brain. But funding for the project is cancelled, and Nasim ends up devoting her career to Zendegi, a computerised virtual world used by millions of people.Fifteen years later, a revived Connectome Project has published a map of the brain. Zendegi is facing fierce competition from its rivals, and Nasim decides to exploit the map to fill the virtual world with better Proxies: the bit-players that bring its crowd scenes to life. As controversy rages over the nature and rights of the Proxies, a friend with terminal cancer begs Nasim to make a Proxy of him, so some part of him will survive to help raise his orphaned son. But Zendegi is about to become a battlefield ...
By Alastair Reynolds
A fabulous collection spanning the galaxies and career of SF superstar Alastair ReynoldsReynolds' pursuit of truth is not limited to wide-angle star smashing - not that stars don't get pulverised when one character is gifted (or cursed) with an awful weapon by the legendary Merlin. Reynolds' protagonists find themselves in situations of betrayal, whether by a loved one's accidental death, as in 'Signal to Noise', or by a trusted wartime authority, in 'Spirey and the Queen'. His fertile imagination can resurrect Elton John on Mars in 'Understanding Space and Time' or make prophets of the human condition out of pool-cleaning robots in the title story.But overall, the stories in ZIMA BLUE represent a more optimistic take on humanity's future, a view that says there may be wars, there may be catastrophes and cosmic errors, but something human will still survive.