Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of The Rapture of the Nerds

The Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situationsThe Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to most people. It would take a great deal of patience, delight in details relating to posthumanism and the singularity, and maybe some experience in virtual living. I enjoyed it because I'm just a big nerd, I guess.

Here's an example of the density of writing:
"Huw last saw her parents at their disembodiment; they'd already had avatars running around in the cloud for years, dipping into meatspace every now and again for a resynch with their slowcode bioinstances dirtside. When they were finally deconstituted into a fine powder of component molecules, it'd been a technicality, really, a final flourish in their transhumanifaction."

Really, if you're familiar with Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, both in their fiction but also in knowing what they themselves geek out about, this is probably the book for you. I've read more Doctorow than Stross, but follow both of them in Twitter, so I suppose I qualify!

My favorite bit of this book is the second chapterish section, where Huw is taken to South Carolina to serve as an ambassador of sorts. Only Charleston, SC, is known as Glory City, and is only filled with people who think they should have been taken in the rapture and weren't. Not exactly the friendliest place for an atheist to have to go. Because of the environmental catastrophe (he refers to the people living there as radioactive), Glory City is in a dome surrounded by chemical showers to keep out the ants. Ants live in continental supercolonies, and are the dominant species, at least in North America.

Along the way, Huw changes genders, and then gets taken into the singularity by his/her mother, or at least a version of her. I love her take on her qualms about living in the cloud:
"Her primary beef against the singularity has never been existential - it's aesthetic. The power to be a being of pure thought, the unlimited, unonstrained world of imagination, and we build a world of animated gifs, stupid sight gags, lame van-art avatars, stupid 'playful' environments, and brain-dead flame wars augmented by animated emoticons that allowed participants to express their hackneyed ad hominems, concern-trollery, and Godwin's law violations through the media of cartoon animals and oversized animated genitals."

To that, I say... word.

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