Talking with someone about Rudy Rucker, and an offhand mention on YouTube, made me pick up JIm Munroe’s Everyone in Silico, my favorite of the “shed your inconvenient meat body and upload your consciousness” stories I’ve read. This one’s a full novel, which paints a picture of a highly corporatized near future in which pretty much everyone is abandoning Vancouver for a post-corporeal existence inside an enormous simulation. I read this 3 or 4 years ago (when I was first getting my footing in this genre, starting with Cory Doctorow and expanding outward) and I highly recommend it. More here.
Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’
Just a brief shout-out on behalf of the Star Force series by B.V. Larson — I’m on book 2 and can’t stop reading. It’s proof that just because something has bypassed the big publishing houses (this is from the Kindle imprint) doesn’t make it junk.
Brief plot summary: alien ships land on earth; humans are commandeered into an alien fighting force; stuff happens; it becomes clear that two alien races are fighting each other on our turf. More stuff happens; crisis averted for humanity (barely) on the final pages of Book One; but a surprise at the start of Book Two starts everything rolling again.
It’s obvious that this was written by a certain type of man — the only female character of any significance in Book One is a “coed” — but then so was Heinlein, and we still read him, so there you go. There’s also a bit more deus ex machina than I prefer (replicators, etc.), and Larson’s a bit loose with the science. But if you get into the spirit, the story rolls along.
The Google Glasses project that everyone’s talking about is, well, I guess my main point is, sure, it’s going to be awesome, but why is everyone so amazed? There’s really no debate about the fact that this is coming.
It’s obvious that, within my lifetime, not only are we going to have the Internet always with us in cybernetic devices (that cow is more or less out of the barn), we’re going to have it implanted into our bodies in an always-on manner.
I predict (and you can hold me to this): Google Glasses with consumer pricing, i.e., “Internet on our heads,” in 10 years; hearing-aid-type network device accepting subvocalized commands, i.e., “Internet next to our heads,” in 15 years; true implant accepting thought-impulse commands, i.e., “Internet inside our heads,” in 25 years. I plan on staying alive long enough to get the last one.
This stuff has been all over science fiction (of both the utopian and dystopian varieties) for a couple of decades. In fact, at the moment I’m reading M.T. Anderson’s Feed, in which implanted always-on connectedness is a major plot point.
In Feed, told from the perspective of a teenager about 20 years in the future (I’m guessing this because one of the dads in the book says “dude” a lot), kids go to the Moon for spring break, and everyone has a flying car, and (for the 73% of Americans who have always-on feed implants) basically every interaction with the world is shopping-focused and mediated by a corporate information aggregator. It’s awesome that you can chat your friends in your head; some of the rest of it (like the fact that the President of the United States can’t put together four coherent sentences), not so much.
If you like nanobots in your space opera, you could do worse than drop 99 cents on David Simpson’s Post-Human. The hard science is full of holes (say that again? people can commute from Vancouver to Venus by flying there in magnetic bubbles, no ship required?), but it’s no worse than a Doctor Who episode. I’m about three-quarters in and I can’t wait to see the evil A.I. vanquished.
This relatively light novel by Lauren Beukes can be gobbled up in a morning (which is how I read it) — it’s a near-future mashup of techno-dystopian corporatist-statism and genetic engineering in a world where everything happens on your phone and your social legitimacy is defined by your SIM ID. (Oddly, people still wear watches.) It takes place in and around Cape Town, which I found interesting (and I kept popping over to Google Maps to geolocate the action).
I would have enjoyed a bit more dystopia and a bit less rage-against-the-machine, but if you like your Charlie Stross (and I do), you’ll probably like this.
Just finished Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse, part of my near-future-dystopia binge. It was a bit softer and more sociological than some of the other sci-fi I’ve ready recently, which isn’t surprising because it’s set about 15 years in the future in a United States that’s recognizable as a place we might be heading toward right now. There hasn’t been an alien invasion, there hasn’t been a revolution. The economy and the social order have just gradually deteriorated, in the way that some would argue they’re already deteriorating now, and the authorities and the elites haven’t been able to keep a handle on it.
There are references to an orderly, well-run consumer society for the very wealthy, who live behind gates more or less the way we live now, but we readers never see those people directly; we spend our time among a dispossessed, squatting uncertain underclass whose members look uncomfortably like us. They’ve been to college, they remember what we remember from the 1990s and 2000s, and yet they live on and near the streets, are menaced day and night, are almost always hungry.
I enjoyed the fact that the book was set in Georgia, in places I recognize, mostly in the pine woods of east Georgia between Macon and Savannah. But I won’t tell you any more; read it for yourself.
Finished this book, and although I got a little lost in the plot (it was hard to keep all the interweaving entities straight, and for the record I have just as much trouble following “traditional” spy vs. spy stuff), I loved the concept — avatars carrying off a heist inside a distributed virtual gaming universe that ends up stealing real-world wealth.
The setting was fun, too — Edinburgh of less than a decade in the future. It was recognizable as Edinburgh; I could even follow most of the action on Google Maps, and I cheered when a major plot event took place near Ocean Terminal, in a part of Leith I went through on the bus when I was there in December. But it was not-Edinburgh, too, given that everyone walks around with augmented-reality overlay spectacles all the time, and taxis are driven by remote operators in a call center.
I had a little trouble at first with the fact that the story is told episodically from the shifting viewpoints of seven or eight principal characters, but you get used to this, and the story is gripping enough that you get propelled through even if you get momentarily disoriented. Highly Recommended.
I’m reading Charles Stross’s Halting State (for a number of reasons, the proximate one being that Chris Patti said to) and even after 18 pages I’m already drawn in. For one thing, it takes place in Scotland where people speak, you know, Scottish, and for another, it takes place in a very near future, and for yet another, it begins with a bank robbery by an army of orcs in a virtual world. So, there’s that. More to come.
I came across Triptych by JM Frey as part of a “people who liked X also liked Y” trip through Amazon, starting with a post-apocalyptic novel. Or maybe they sent it to me in a “hard SF” promo email. Whatever. In any case, they know what I like, and in this case “what I like” is apparently “a time-travel science fiction story bookending a polyamorous human-alien love affair told from the alien’s point of view.” Be warned, there is actual sexuality in this book, and not all of it is human, and not all of it is heterosexual (!); but once you get used to the fact that Kalp (that’s his name) keeps his genitals tucked into his chest, his sensibility turns out to be more like a human sensibility than you might expect, which I guess is part of the point.
I’m not sure how realistic it is that a different species from another planet has thought patterns that are so almost-human — hell, that he is able to be sexually aroused by humans (nevermind the fact that the fruits and vegetables from Kalp’s home planet grow so well on Earth that a vendor in a farmer’s market in suburban London carries a full range of them). And I got confused a bit in the time-travel subplot — maybe I wasn’t paying attention. But nevermind any of that, it’s a great story, and if you’re curious about how someone would write a scene in which an alien pleasures himself while he listens to two humans get it on, well, this book is for you.
I’m reading my way through Vernor Vinge, starting with A Deepness in the Sky and moving on to A Fire Upon The Deep. This means I’m reading in in-universe chronological order but not in the order the books were written.
I have to say I liked Deepness in the Sky a bit better, probably because it’s more straightforward space opera (albeit placed in a universe with non-human races) — Fire Upon the Deep (which I’m halfway through) is thinkier, and the Singularity aspects to the story are less interesting to me. (Nothing against transcendence, I just prefer my transcendence more nano- and techno-.)
In both cases, you get a detailed look at the inner life of a race that is non-human not just in physical terms but in terms of its mentalizing — lots of authors do this but usually it’s at the length of a short story, and for someone to be able to sustain it credibly at book length is remarkable. And these are long books. There is some suspension of disbelief (how exactly do creatures with no opposable thumbs, and only jaws for manipulation, manage to use a forge?), but, eh, that comes with the territory, no?