The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross (Books 2016, 3)

I read this about a month and a half ago, and already it has slipped quite far from my memory. That's not a good sign, is it?

I’m also almost sure I wrote about it already, but it seems not. I certainly can’t find anything on either my Mac or iPhone.

But never mind. It’s Stross and Doctorow. What’s not to like? It’s also, I think, something of a fix-up. I certainly felt that I had read the early part of it before.

We’re in a near-future, post-singularity world, where our hero, Huw, wakes up with a hangover to find that he has been invited to do jury duty. But rather than determine the guilt or innocence of alleged criminals, this jury’s job is to determine the desirability of a piece of new technology.

Huw is a singularity refusenik, who wants to remain on Earth as a baseline human, rather than take advantage of the ability to upload his personality and live forever in the orbital cloud. The jury’s job is to assess whether a piece of new tech should be allowed to come back from the cloud to Earth.

At least, that’s the theory. It goes a long way from there, as you might expect.

It’s good, but as I suggested above, not that memorable. On the other hand, that could just be my memory.


Book Notes 3: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow’s third novel is his best so far; and it’s strange. Really, really strange.

It is the story of a man whose father is a mountain and whose mother is a washing machine. These are not metaphors.


Or perhaps they are. If so, though then the whole book is a metaphor, and I’m not entirely sure for what.

Since Alan (or Adam, or Albert, or Aaron) is very different from other people (he doesn’t have a navel, for one very minor thing) it could be seen as about alienation. Alan, however, is not particularly alienated.

His brothers are a different matter, though.

Each of the five is given a name starting with the next letter of the alphabet after the previous brother’s; but they are not called constantly by this name, either by each other or by the narrator. Instead, they are called by a seemingly-randomly-chosen name starting with ‘their’ letter of the alphabet. There seems no real purpose to it. If it is intended to emphasise the brothers’ ‘otherness’, then it does so: but not enough.

As well as that, each brother has a unique characteristic. Billy, Buddy, Bob (etc) can see the future. Charlie is an island. Davey is twisted, damaged and dangerous. And Ed, Fred and George are a sort of composite being, living inside each other like Russian dolls.

Not surprisingly, one of the subplots centres on one of Cory’s real-world interests: building a free, community-supported wireless network across the city (his native Toronto, in this case). In a way, that subplot doesn’t really mesh very well with the fantastical story: but it does provide a backdrop for it, and it shows that Alan has a life outside of his weird family.

And there’s a woman with wings. Read it for yourself. It’s quite amazing, and like his other books, available for free download under a Creative Commons licence.

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