Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Doctorow & Stross, The Rapture of the Nerds

Like Mr. Boing Boing has any reason to care about the opinions of a crank with an old-style Blogger template.

And yet my hopes for Rapture of the Nerds, the SF novel from Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, were so, so crushed when I finally got around to reading it. At least it was a fast read, because otherwise I don't know that I would have bothered finishing the book, even if it was part of my self-prescribed late-summer non-academic reading detox.

There are all kinds of plot points major and minor that should be interesting (an ant hypercolony that's eating the remnants of North American civilization, religion as sexual perversion as religion, grubby Welshmen, mostly normalized transgender identity, the materiality of the Cloud, the persistence of nature...), and yet I kept thinking of dodgy Simpsons episodes, where the jokes come at you relentlessly but don't add up to anything more than nuanced than a body count.

Doctorow and Stross deserve their separate stardoms, but this book? Jesus.

As Susie McBeth put it at Nerd Like You, this novel is full of what amount to Easter eggs for its readers, rewards for keeping up, dog-whistles for Those Who Know. I get the references, mostly, and I kept up, but overall I'm in uncomfortable agreement with Genevieve Valentine at NPR, presumably because I'm as old as your standard NPR reader / listener: "the overall effect is that of being trapped in an elevator with an enthusiastic computer science major who has just picked up a minor in philosophy." Valentine means this as an insult, and to be clear, I wouldn't. Still, I take her point, and it's not a bad characterization of Rapture of the Nerds (if you can get past the shaming of the computer scientist, and not everyone can...).

Dabble regularly at io9, rather than wasting your time on Rapture of the Nerds.

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