Accelerando (Singularity)

Accelerando (Singularity) - Charles Stross This book is fantastic hard SciFi in the emergent post-human genre. From what I can gather, this book has done for post-humanism what Neuromancer did for cyberpunk. It's a touch dry in some places and the characters are a bit clunky, but I feel Charles is most interested in describing the "singularity" rather than telling a traditional story.

Post-humanist writing is obsessed with the concept of "singularity" - a point at which the old ways of doing things (relying on grey matter and the associated sensory organs and limbic systems) is replaced by virtual people and artificial realities. I don't understand this fascination with the point of the eschaton. If humanity survives long enough to get to a point where we can spin off various copies of ourselves to process information in different, simultaneous timelines, wouldn't that mean that the beginning of the next phase of human development is marked by The Great Multiplicity?

That rant aside, Accelerando was a great read, as I am a hardcore geek who believes math is entertaining and science tells the greatest stories of all, and I have a background in information technology. Without at least a cursory understanding of astrophysics, calculus and computing technology this book would quickly bog down into a lot of technobabble. Unlike some of the other classic SciFi books, Charles doesn't show how the technology works, he explains it then shows what it's like to live with it.

The story is engaging. There are three parts to the book, and each section has it's own conflicts and resolutions, and each could stand alone as a novella. The book follows the progression of a finite set of characters, who through copying themselves into different hardware each live out alternate timelines, and these copies occasionally intersect with themselves and other characters. This all takes place over the better part of a century, when the computing power of the human race explodes exponentially at ever shortening durations, causing a total phase shift in what it means to be human and how people view the universe and humanity's place in it.

Charle's ability to rationally explain how that could happen, and make the science work, is how this book gets five stars. I couldn't put this book down once the acceleration started; it was too fascinating to read his theories on how the post in post-humanism could come about.

The character-driven part of the story is the weakest part of the book. I would have liked to see the pressures and generational divides play out a more finesse. There is a lot of room for the human story to be told in this book, but it falls to the side for the sake of technologie's story.

I truly enjoyed this book, because I'm a hardcore nerd. I don't forsee their being a lot of attraction outside of nerdville for this book. If you like your scifi hard as nanospun diamond, however, I can't recommend this book enough.