September 26th, 2010


Accelerando, by Charles Stross

It was kismet that gregvaneekhout recently asked, "How long do you give a book before giving up?" I got reallll close to my breaking point on Accelerando [free download in link], which strings together a number of Stross' short stories projecting the future of mankind through the singularity into post- trans- and non-humanity. The first story/section is written in such a whiz-bang cyberpunky patois that I several times wanted to hurl the book from me. As when Stross describes an attractive thing as a strange attractor, presumably because it sounds bitchin'. I believe that kind of disregard for the difference between technical and ordinary language is highly deprecated in Strunk and White's Transuranian Elements of Style [Bitchin!]. (The novel's title I will allow as an excellent metaphor.)
Fortunately, the style settles down and I quite enjoyed the mid-section of the book. Ultimately, though, the acceleration of technology and mind reaches a point where it stops meaning anything. Recognizable humanity has fled the inner solar system, which has become the abode of the 'Vile Offspring', posthuman descendent intelligences that are so inexplicable from a human standpoint that Stross doesn't attempt to explic them. The VO might as well be the boogeyman or Cthulhu. Even the recognizable humans are essentially immune to death, through virtual and real reconstruction of minds. And the bickering and foibles of the human characters wasn't keeping my interest either. So I reached a point with about 25 pages to go where I really stopped caring. There is no way, I told myself, the remaining pages will provide me with a satisfactory reading experience. I was right.

So, read the middle part. It's good.