Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.
Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun.
The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander…and when that happens, it casually spams Earth’s networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems. A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there’s always someone who’ll take a bite from the forbidden apple.
So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth’s anthill, there’s Tech Jury Service: random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.
Rapture of the Nerds is a non-stop spiralling journey of crazy… but in a good way.
The journey starts off with the main protagonist Huw waking up after a pretty wild party, inside a rearranging bathroom (yes the bathroom was rearranging itself), then having an encounter with someone who had a gender reassignment at home, then popping off to Libya to take part in Tech Jury Service, where the judge is particularly fond of sentencing people to death…and that is just the beginning.
Post singularity stories are always a bit on the strange side, and if you have no idea or have not previously read novels dealing with this subject before, then it is something you definitely need to read up on before tackling this book. However, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross tell their tale in a way that makes the strangeness seem almost rational.
Huw’s story is a complex mesh of non-stop scenarios that are fast paced, riveting and sometimes confusing adventures. He journeys from his technophobic lifestyle in Wales, to Tech Jury Service in Libya (where the adventure really kicks off), to a fanatically religious part of America, where death by ants is imminent (most of the time), back to Wales again and then onto the Cloud…well the uploaded version(s) of Huw anyway… Throughout all of these different change of scenes, Huw himself also changes. He changes sex, and he slowly changes the way he thinks.
Huw starts out as very cynical man, who is angry all the time, hates the changes to his personal universe and abhors the technological process. Throughout his journey as the unwitting saviour of the human race, he becomes a bit more mellow and accepting, though the bite of his wit and occasional flames of temper are still there (even if sometimes it is within his or her head).
To go too much into the story and plot points would take away some of the ride of the story, so I am not going to do that (also it would be a bit spoilery) – however, I will say that as fun and as fast paced as the book is, and it definitely is – it can also feel a little bit jarring. On some occasions the story flips and changes so often that you are left wondering if you missed a page or two. Also, there are times where you enjoy a particular part of Huw’s journey so much that you would like to read more of it and have it expanded upon. So with each scenario ending so quickly, you feel a bit like you are missing out.
The character of Huw is fairly well rounded and throughout the story you really get to know him and come to care about what happens to him, but the other characters feel very much like they are just a part in Huw’s story – which of course they are, but it would have been nice to get to know them better. Especially, Bonnie, the character that becomes romantically entangled with Huw. Not only does Bonnie change gender like it is going out of style, she is also ass-kickingly cool in her ability to swoop in and save the day or flip-out in a fit of rage. She was truly interesting and I would have loved to find out more about her and see a bit more of her character develop.
If you like books that are jam-packed with pop-culture, science, political, and philosophical references then this is the book for you. If not – then stay away as this book has a ton of them. The references feel like a wee nod to the readers, a kind of reward for keeping up. The writers do this well and if you are a reader that enjoys the odd pat on the head and reference to drinking Diet Slurm then this book will make you smile for days. I myself was very smiley at various points of reading it.
It is always interesting to read a book written by two authors. Both Stross and Doctorow have very strong voices and, though at times in the book they seem to be competing against each other, for the most part, they make an excellent partnership and their styles gel perfectly together.
Rapture of the Nerds is a glorious ride, that will make your head spin and fingers keep wanting to turn the pages.
So why should you read this book?
- It is fast-paced and full of action.
- It is chock-full of awesome pop-culture references
- It deals with ‘Technological Singularity’ a concept that makes for a very compelling read
- It is an end of the world story with a difference
What’s not to like?
- It is chock-full of pop culture and various other references that at times make the book feel a bit like a clique that you are trying to get into. ‘If you are not cool enough to get this reference then you can’t join…’ this is the kind of vibe the book occasionally gives off.
We give Rapture of the Nerds 3.5 Nerds out of 5
Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross is out now, Titan Books, £7.99. This review/ interview was posted as part of the Rapture of the Nerds Mind-bending Blog Tour. For more details visit: http://titanbooks.com/blog/rapture-nerds-mind-bending-blog-tour/
The Rapture of the Nerds is peppered with references to pop-culture staples (The Matrix, Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy amongst others). To be in with a chance of winning a SIGNED copy of Rapture of the Nerds tweet the fictions piece of technology that you would most want let loose in the real world @doctorow @csross @titanbooks #RaptureoftheNerds. The co-authors will vote for their favourite fifteen pieces of tech and each top tweeter will be sentenced to a free copy. The Jury is still out. Good luck.