Review: Rapture of the Nerds

As I’m searching for a word to sum up Rapture of the Nerds, I keep coming back to “romp.” I get the feeling that while writing this Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow had great fun sideswiping virtually every nerdy enclave they scream past as they tell an enjoyable story.  One can almost hear one or the other saying “look sharp or you’ll miss that one” or even “hold my beer – I’ve got this.” There is a fair amount of snark in here, obviously, but a lot of it is unobtrusive.  The kind of smart-assery that one only notices if one was already in on the joke.  I’m sure there are jokes I’m not in on that went right by.

As much fun as all the in-jokes are, Rapture delivers both a story worth following and ideas worth thinking about.  I don’t think our authors think that the Singularity is more than an interesting though experiment, but they’re delighted to jump into that experiment with both feet and a calculator.  Stross and Doctorow treat us to ideas about how much power will go into maintaining the computational power needed to play this game, what kinds of social structure that might enforce, and what invading alien armadas look like in that SF landscape.  All very well done with the aforementioned spoonful of snark to help the medicine go down.

One of the best parts of Rapture is how human the Doctorow/Stross Singularity is. Family relations, interpersonal relationships, internal human psychology, and gender perceptions all flare up at various points.  These are not just ideas that are played in passing, but many form key plot points.  A singularity (and the noun phrase “a singularity” brings me joy) created by another life form might be markedly different.  In fact, if our civilization ever migrated to, say a Heinlein Moon Is A Harsh Mistress society the singularity there would differ.  Some English Literature Ph.D candidate can have the idea of comparing SF society singularities for nothing.

Of course the point of great SF is to reflect on humanity.  To me Rapture is ultimately a celebration of some of the bits that make humanity human, for good and ill.


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