Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Rapture of the Nerds

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 78.

The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross

Summary (via the book jacket):
It's the dusk of the twenty-first century, and Earth has a population of a billion or so.  For the most part, we're happy with our lot.  Those who aren't have emigrated off-planet, joining one of the swarming densethinker clades of the inner solar system.  These posthuman consciousnesses have mostly sworn off dealing with their still-human cousins, but their minds sometimes wander...and when that happens, they casually spam Earth's networks with 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 get bored with 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.  Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury.
And he'll do his best...despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.

My Opinion:
Yes, the summary is a bit jumbled but sci-fi stories are notoriously difficult to sum up so I gave it a shot based on the funny title and starred review from Booklist.  Unfortunately, the book is over and I'm still not clear on what exactly it was about, other than saying the summary didn't match the story.  Spoilers prevent me from saying more, but the themes and overtones were not what I expected at all.  The weirdness of the story would be offputting for some but that wasn't the case for me.  For me, it was the amount of utter concentration this book required to keep everything straight, especially at the beginning when new characters were being introduced constantly.  Although it settled down about halfway through (which is why I always finish the books I start), I just couldn't shake my initial reaction and it soured my experience.

At times it felt like a competition between the two authors to see who could write the biggest words and longest sentence possible.  There were many sentences to choose from but kudos to the one that wrote this: "Huw zones out during the endless subcommittee meetings that last into early evening, then suffers himself to be dragged to the hotel refectory by Doc Dagbjort and a dusky Romanian Lothario from the Cordon Bleu Catering Committee who casts pointed and ugly looks at him until he slouches away from his baklava and dispiritedly climbs the unfinished concrete utility stairway to sublevel 1, where his toil is to begin".

The starred review implies that maybe I just missed the boat on this one and I can accept that.  But my personal opinion...skip it.

Quote from the Book:
"Huw tries to imagine what the old Huw, the Huw who went down to his pottery every day, would have felt about being turned into a woman by a bunch of quiasisentient ants en route to immortal transcendence."

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