The Rapture of the Nerds

By Cory Doctorow

Rating: 4 stars

At the tail end of the 21st century, after the Singularity has resulted in all but about a billion humans uploading into a transformed solar system, neo-technophobe Huw Jones is called up for jury duty. Not for passing judgement on criminals, but deciding whether or not ideas, memes, technology etc beamed (or spammed) down from the cloud should be allowed on earth. It doesn’t start off well, as he is infected with some sort of technological virus and his day goes rapidly downhill from there.

There are an awful lot of ideas in this book. Stross and Doctorow gleefully throw them at you rapid fire and if one or two don’t stick, well, never worry, there’s another one coming at you before you have a chance to think about it. Overnight home gender reassignment surgery and AI genies in lamps are just some of the tamer ideas. The book is very much split into three sections, each of which feels like they were possibly independent novellas before being combined. The first starts with Huw’s original jury duty, the second picks up as he crash lands in the isolated, fundamentalist remains of the USA on the way home and the final part takes place in the cloud, after Huw is forcibly uploaded.

The first section is interesting as it’s introducing the world and the idea of this council for protecting earth from unwanted technologies, the third has a pretty strong story but I found the middle bit unsatisfying. The ideas just didn’t really gel for me and Huw was altogether too passive as our PoV character which I found frustrating.

Still, there’s lots in here to enjoy, particularly in the final section, as the authors indulge in a little existential philosophy, about what makes up an individual, what happens when it’s possible to fork off copies of yourself, diff and merge and the ethics of shutting down instances. There’s a whole lot of fun in the book, but you may have to swim through the deluge of ideas to find the gems.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781167441
Publisher: Titan Publishing Company
Year of publication: 2012

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