g Halting State A geek guru makes a living from freebies given by grateful companies he puts in touch with other grateful companies in order to realise whatever mad idea he s come up with next.
The future overtakes even him, though, and soon most people aren t actually people, they re computer simulations but the simulated people are being made redundant by self aware financial products and corporations Where next The edge of the solar system then beyond.
The latter two thirds of traditional SF appealed to me much than the first third of techno mag geekery but that probably means I m already future shocked, like the older characters in the book There s some crazy extrapolation on display technology, economics, interstellar travel and no one else I know of is really doing this kind of thing at all, let alone as well It s a step beyond cyber punk, for people who were born playing with a mobile phone.
The ending of this book is a disappointment, but I can t explain why without a massive spoiler Instead I like to remember that the first artificial intelligence was a bunch of lobsters brains mapped and simulated and strapped together by a group of Russian techno spies I am trying so hard, but I still haven t read a Charles Stross I like as much as I like his twitter feed, and that makes me frustrated I want to fall in love with his books This gets closer than the two I ve previously read, but not quite there It s a good book, but I m still a little on the fence Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.
In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook The Singularity It Is The Era Of The Posthuman Artificial Intelligences Have Surpassed The Limits Of Human Intellect Biotechnological Beings Have Rendered People All But Extinct Molecular Nanotechnology Runs Rampant, Replicating And Reprogramming At Will Contact With Extraterrestrial Life Grows Imminent With Each New DayStruggling To Survive And Thrive In This Accelerated World Are Three Generations Of The Macx Clan Manfred, An Entrepreneur Dealing In Intelligence Amplification Technology Whose Mind Is Divided Between His Physical Environment And The Internet His Daughter, Amber, On The Run From Her Domineering Mother, Seeking Her Fortune In The Outer System As An Indentured Astronaut And Sirhan, Amber S Son, Who Finds His Destiny Linked To The Fate Of All Of HumanityFor Something Is Systemically Dismantling The Nine Planets Of The Solar System Something Beyond Human Comprehension Something That Has No Use For Biological Life In Any Form Many people recommended this highly to me I found that the plot and ideas, as summarized on Wikipedia, were brilliant and mind expanding The writing of the book was intolerable I couldn t get past page 20 It was like reading Wired Magazine Stross drops every current technology name and buzzword, apparently without a deep enough understanding to know which might have staying power 15 minutes into the future When slashdot , open source , bluetooth , wimax , state vector and terms all appeared on the same page, I felt like I was reading a Bruce Sterling novel This guy s trying to impress or snow me with dumb vocabulary, rather than telling a story I hope he drops the silly vocabulary and trashy sci fi sentence structure to expand his great ideas in the other books More Arthur C Clarke and less Bruce Sterling, please.
Christmas 2010 I realised that I had got stuck in a rut I was re reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works Something had to be done.
On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci Fi award That s 35 books, 6 of which I d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.
While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life so far.
2006Accelerandowon the Locus Sci Fi award, beating the Hugo winner, Spin.
Personally, I would have given the award to SimmonsOlympus , the sequel to 2004 s winner, Ilium one of my all time favourite books But I m very glad the guys and gals voting for the Locus gave it toAccelerandobecause that way it got onto my reading list After making the decision to read every Locus Sci Fi winner, this is the book I started my quest with It was recent, sounded interesting, was a new author for me, and was available from second hand for just 1p plus delivery This book made me feel Christ On A Bike Doing Bunnyhops Through Bethlehem I would describe it as A charismatic geekazoid ideagasming into my optic nerves.
What I said at the time to my wife The main guy I was telling you about, well he s now a flock of pigeons living in his grandson s space habitat orbiting Saturn which is controlled by the AI who used to be an orangutan, his daughter s ship and his cat.
It s that kind of book Like riding a rollercoaster through a technology museum then being quizzed about the exhibits.
It throws a lot of information at you, opens up a lot of different angles and doesn t explain much Then it lurches off down one of these angles into the future and does it again While you re trying to figure out what s happening this time, you re also trying to figure out which details were relevant from the last chapter to get you here Then we lurch forward again and a pattern emerges we re trying to look at the present, then at the past for how the hell we got here, then to the future for where we re going next Each lurch gets extreme, accelerating the profound post singularity changes on individuals and society.
It s a fascinating experience with a wonderful, free wheeling spirit.
But it lacks heart By surfing the wave of progress, the characters inAccelerandoare moving further and further away from traditional norms, and as such the emotional hooks they exert upon the reader are increasingly abstract and tenuous It s a brilliant thought experiment, but lacking in soul.
Delighted to give it 4 stars but quite firm that it doesn t deserve 5 After this I read Rainbows End I finally understand why Charles Stross is so popular even though I often find his fiction borderline unreadable I think he writes for a tech savvy readership and they love him for it It s great when an author gives you credit for intelligence and understanding and never talk down to you However, while I know my way around Windows and Android phones I don t consider myself tech savvy, certainly my understanding of programming is minimal A lot of what Stross puts in his fiction goes right over my head.
This is my third Stross book, originally it was going to be the first as it is available as a free e book under Creative Commons licence, Unfortunately on that first attempt I could not read than 50 pages and had to give it up I had better luck with his Singularity Sky which I quite enjoyed, not long after that I read The Atrocity Archives which I partially enjoyed, very much like my second attempt at Accelerando I wanted to give Accelerando another try because it is a highly rated book among my friends at PrintSF online discussion group While I don t rate the book quite so highly myself I kind of understand my peers enthusiasm for it, there is a lot to admire in Accelerando even if the end result does not quite work for me.
Charles Stross has an immense imagination, he knows his science, and he has a sense of humour In addition to all that his blogs and other online posts give the impression that he is a great guy, kind, friendly, modest, and enthusiastic about science and science fiction The only snag is I find his prose style difficult to read He employs a ton of technical jargon and neologism, most of which is never clarified I understand that he has numerous fans who do not have any problem comprehending his work, power to them, I can only speak for myself.
Accelerando is a fix up novel comprised of nine short stories about events shortly before the advent of the singularity, through the singularity and events post singularity.
There lies the weakness of the book as a novel for me, the nine stories do not bind together into one cohesive tale The fix up nature of the novel plays hell with the narrative rhythm, I find myself veering crazily back and forth between enjoying the book to feeling a bit bored and frustrated with it The end result is on the positive side but not by a large margin Practically every page is brimming with new ideas and concepts, sf readers who in this genre for the technological speculation is likely to have a field day This is under the proviso that they are able to follow the author s technical expositions I have to confess about 25% of these ideas flew right over my head, may be I just don t have enough bandwidth or storage space to cope with them Be that as it may, the reading experience can be frustrating from time to time Another complaint I have is with the characterization, most of the characters except that weird cyber cat are of not worth caring about as Stross does not spend much time developing them, they just exist to drive the plot forward I really do like the ideas that I was able to absorb though, especially those concerning posthumanism and Stross speculation of what our race may eventually evolve or transcend into.
After being disappointed with The Atrocity Archives I kept telling myself that Charles Stross sf books are just not for me, yet somehow his ideas always manage to entice me to pick up another one I like Accelerando over all but I am also disappointed in it The trouble is I am almost certain to read another one of his book in the near future and I probably won t enjoy it Hard SF Three generations of an entrepreneurial family invent and scheme and survive the singularity, the point where artificial intelligence power bypasses old fashioned organic brains, and humans first augment themselves, then disassemble the planets to build a solar system wide computer and become something else entirely.
What a disappointment I can forgive unapproachable characters in hard SF, and frequently have I tried hard to cut some slack, because the point of the book is the screamingly insane pace of progress and just how fast and how far we would change into something entirely different But indeed, I did have the revelation, around the three quarter mark, that not only didn t I care whether any of our protagonists permanently bit it or not, but the supposedly precarious fate of the entire human race also made me yawn copiously.
But when I forgive that failing in hard SF it s because the big ideas are awesome enough And these ideas were big, sure, all intergalactic packet switched router systems and AI cats and what all But there was something so smug Self involved I can t really put my finger on it, except that a lot of this book was so in jokey to such a specific stripe of internet age scifi geekery that it tipped over from pleasing into masturbatory Something like that.
Does Stross have anything better to offer This book is fantastic hard SciFi in the emergent post human genre From what I can gather, this book has done for post humanism what Neuromancer did for cyberpunk It s a touch dry in some places and the characters are a bit clunky, but I feel Charles is most interested in describing the singularity rather than telling a traditional story.
Post humanist writing is obsessed with the concept of singularity a point at which the old ways of doing things relying on grey matter and the associated sensory organs and limbic systems is replaced by virtual people and artificial realities I don t understand this fascination with the point of the eschaton If humanity survives long enough to get to a point where we can spin off various copies of ourselves to process information in different, simultaneous timelines, wouldn t that mean that the beginning of the next phase of human development is marked by The Great Multiplicity That rant aside, Accelerando was a great read, as I am a hardcore geek who believes math is entertaining and science tells the greatest stories of all, and I have a background in information technology Without at least a cursory understanding of astrophysics, calculus and computing technology this book would quickly bog down into a lot of technobabble Unlike some of the other classic SciFi books, Charles doesn t show how the technology works, he explains it then shows what it s like to live with it.
The story is engaging There are three parts to the book, and each section has it s own conflicts and resolutions, and each could stand alone as a novella The book follows the progression of a finite set of characters, who through copying themselves into different hardware each live out alternate timelines, and these copies occasionally intersect with themselves and other characters This all takes place over the better part of a century, when the computing power of the human race explodes exponentially at ever shortening durations, causing a total phase shift in what it means to be human and how people view the universe and humanity s place in it.
Charle s ability to rationally explain how that could happen, and make the science work, is how this book gets five stars I couldn t put this book down once the acceleration started it was too fascinating to read his theories on how the post in post humanism could come about.
The character driven part of the story is the weakest part of the book I would have liked to see the pressures and generational divides play out a finesse There is a lot of room for the human story to be told in this book, but it falls to the side for the sake of technologie s story.
I truly enjoyed this book, because I m a hardcore nerd I don t forsee their being a lot of attraction outside of nerdville for this book If you like your scifi hard as nanospun diamond, however, I can t recommend this book enough.
Acclerando is Stross s most frustrating, annoying, idea packed, difficult, dense, and arguably best novel Can feel like taking a crash course in astro physics, computer science, economics, sociology, while reading a dozen blogs, Bruce Sterling s Deep Eddy Stories and Shismatrix , and cliff notes of science fiction s back pages But once you get over the buzz of the overload it is a hauntingly odd story of a dysfunctional family in a world of increasingly weird technology and its implications Spooky, funny, surreal, spastic and brain warping, and shifting between space opera, near future post cyberpunk, and hard science, this book has enough material for hundreds of stories and essays It is made of fix up stories but holds up thanks to the third section pulling the threads together May not be to most peoples taste and you should probably read the rest of his oeuvre before attempting this one I gave up a half dozen times If you do respond to it, check out his earlier unpublished available online novel Scratch Monkey, which is macabre take on similar material.
Can Hype Machines Think Stopped at p 289 This book has been haunting me for months, and it isn t even that long The idea of finishing it began to seem like a chore several weeks ago, and at some point I realized that at my steadily decelarating ha reading pace it would haunt me for months if I didn t just stop.
This is clearly supposed to be a fun, bubbly, readable book What turned it into such an albatross I guess the problem is a fundamental difference between my worldview and the worldview assumed by the book I don t know if the book s view is Charles Stross own view, or whether he s just playing around with it this is fiction, after all but the difference grated on me, page by page, sentence by sentence, until it ultimately ground me down.
This is another science fiction book that depicts the singularity, something I ve talked about on here before In that review I talked about how the singularity was originally supposed to be something that was impossible to depict in fiction, and that I thought that when writers tried to do it anyway they often failed to sufficiently disorient the reader If you re going to depict something that s supposed to be beyond our comprehension, you d better not be too comprehensible With Accelerando the problem is quite different Stross is clearly working very hard to make his future continually disorienting Barely a paragraph goes by without some new bit of gee whiz terminology or the positing of some not before mentioned feat of engineering The dialogue is filled with odd terms and assumptions and seems intended to make the reader think again and again, wait, you guys can do thatThe intended impression is one of a future receding away from our comprehension at an accelerating rate.
But rather than steady accelerating future shock, my experience was of a sudden, gigantic shock right at the beginning, followed by woozy indifference The gigantic shock came from the fact that, even at the beginning, when Stross is merely showing us the day after tomorrow, his world seems fundamentally different from the one I live in Specifically, it seems to be a world in which there are no truly difficult technical problems a world in which everyone talks in breezy, arrogant language full of colorful metaphors and vague, commingled ideas, and where this kind of talk somehow leads directly, as if by magic, to wonderful new technologies and a better world for everyone Typical dialogue runs something like this It s the agalmic future You re still locked into a pre singularity economic model that thinks in terms of scarcity Resource allocation isn t a problem any it s going to be over within a decade The cosmos is flat in all directions, and we can borrow as much bandwidth as we need from the from the first universal bank of entropy That s from the first chapter Granted, the character speaking here is supposed to be a bit of a wild eyed singularity nut, and the fact that he ends up being right is supposed to be somewhat jarring, to the reader as much as to the other characters But it s not just his specific ideas that are vindicated it s his whole way of thinking, or rather not quite thinking, but bouncing incoherently from one glitzy idea to the next like a Wired magazine writer on acid.
Stross own prose sounds like this and as the book goes on, as do the other characters A character is described as a strange attractor within the chaotic phase space of Italian politics, as though this meant something definite and readily comprehensible Another doesn t believe in scarcity or zero sum games or competition his world is too fast and information dense to accommodate primate hierarchy games Reference is incessantly made to the state vectors of people s brains, which appears to be nothing than a way of making the word state sound mathematical This is how Stross describes the political environment of the mid term future future globalism and tribalism have run to completion, diverging respectively into homogeneous interoperability and the Schwarzschild radius of insularity At a later point he tells us, ominously, that the human memesphere is coming alive The ultimate effect of all of this, compounded over hundreds of pages of dialogue and description, is the evocation of a world in which everything that matters can be discussed in these bullshit terms Deliberately or not, Stross book is fundamentally a kind of fantasy novel about the alternate universe conjured by breathless tech journalism and Silicon Valley hype A world in which science gets done and technology gets made by people speaking this kind of language, and there is no deeper, grounded level where the metaphors disappear and everything is hard data and math.
The core personality trait of virtually all the main characters and, really, of the book itself is a boundless confidence in their own hazy thinking, a complete lack of any tether to hard facts, to a wide harsh world outside this Wired magazine sci fi headspace The universe itself conforms to the contours of the characters thought patterns, and the whole thing ends up feeling like some sort of Brave New World like utopia dystopia Part and parcel of this is Stross complete inability to write engaging human relationships in this world whose fundamental metaphysics is made of buzzwords, it s hard to have subtle or uncertain shades of feeling that can t be captured in a tech metaphor or distilled into a snarky quip Fittingly enough, most of the sex in this buzzworld is BSDM, and pretty stunningly unsexy I ll concede that Stross is relentlessly inventive, and that he appears to be pretty talented at this strange task he s set for himself I ve certainly never read anyone else like him A friend on Facebook wrote that he d never read anything so gleefully wrapped up in its own cheerful balls to the wall insanity, and I can easily imagine a slightly different version of myself finding that particular package very enjoyable But to actual me it was just grating page after page of fingernails on chalkboard, of annoying guy at party who won t shut up.
I guess it also makes me wonder about all the people who take the singularity seriously as a prediction about the real future Do they find this book as grating as I do A lot of the enthusiasm for the concept comes from people who work in the software industry I ve noticed a lot less of it among scientists, even though many of the important barriers between us and the singularity e.
g understanding the brain better are science challenges, not engineering challenges Maybe the Accelerando mindset is simply the engineer s mindset taken beyond the limits of good sense a mindset formed by interacting with human creations that were made to be understood and combined Metaphors sometimes work in that world because it was made by us, for us, and we re creatures of metaphor they break on the alien crags of the physical universe itself Which might be one reason not to listen to people from the tech industry when they talk about the singularity, even when they sound really smart.
Well, I dunno It s a thought.