Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Sci-Fi: Postsingular by Rudy Rucker
Source: Honors College
Read: for an Honors College informal reading group
From GoodReads: It begins the day after next year in California. A maladjusted computer industry billionaire and a somewhat crazy US president initiate a radical transformation of the world through sentient nanotechnology, sort of the equivalent of biological artificial intelligence. At first they succeed, but their plans are reversed by Chu, an autistic boy. The next time it isn’t so easy to stop them. Most of the story takes place in our world after a previously unimaginable transformation. All things look the same, and all people feel the same—but they are different (they’re able to read each others’ minds, for starters). Travel to and from other nearby worlds in the quantum universe is possible. And our world is visited by giant humanoids from another quantum universe, some of whom mean to tidy up the mess we’ve made. Or maybe just run things.
My review: I hadn't noticed this before, but the above blurb (the same as what's on the back of my book) is a fantastic example of how this novel reads: a bit disconnected and random. It took me a while to get into the author's style. The entire storyline isn't terribly coherent in the first place, but the flow between the initial chapters, originally written as individual short stories, is especially choppy. For most of the book, the characters aren't that likable, as they seem silly and flighty - like "we've just come up with this great scientific breakthrough that will completely alter our entire world, so we're really as concerned with our petty love affairs right now as we are with all that world-altering stuff."
Eventually, I was able to go more with the flow. I still wish Rucker would explain his science more, since he mostly just throws out ideas with little background information and to someone with only a high school level of scientific knowledge, most of these seem like fantasy rather than anything approaching at least theoretical possibility. I've been told there's actually a good bit of string theory and quantum stuff going on. But, otherwise, the novel becomes more fun the farther one gets into it. Two or three main characters emerge who take on more life, and the seeming randomness of the plot, quickly flitting from one idea and event to another, takes on an almost '60s, psychedelic air. The author's writing continues to be pretty flat, but there are several humorous moments and times when you're left wondering WTF?! when something unexpected occurs. If you succeed in suspending your disbelief, the book becomes much more engaging and enjoyable. In the words of one Hibrane character, it's vibby, man. It's weird. I still can't figure out whether I absolutely love the book or think it's just poorly-written sci-fi mind candy, but hey, reading it with this college group was a good experience.
Maturity factor: nonexplicit sex, a few crude moments, and adults behaving badly