Review of Greg Egan, “Zero for Conduct”, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year series, Vol. 8. Reviewed by Drew Shiel.
“Zero for Conduct” is set in a near-future Iran. Indeed, there’s very little to stop it from being a contemporary Iran of 2017, except for a few details of technology – although they’re important to the story. And the story works around the development of a key new element of technology, invented by a schoolgirl with a brilliant understanding of molecular structure and chemistry. Greg Egan evokes Iran well, as far as I can make out, touching solidly on sectarian and gender issues as well as local flavour. The story resolves satisfyingly, and there’s none of the element of progress-hampered-by-idiocy which often plagues invention stories.
Recommended for fans of strong female protagonists, hard near-future SF, thoughtful examination of the Middle East, and/or ramifications and outcomes of relatively minor technical advances.