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Book review: ‘Rapture of the Nerds’ a stunningly strange sci-fi novel

The story of massively post-human cybernetic beings should be told through all-senses and video wired directly into your head. Unfortunately, we don’t have that yet.

“Rapture of the Nerds,” released Sept. 4, is an attempt to pare down the staggering complexity of the post-human, post-singularity world of the far future and compress it into a single book.

Authors Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross succeed with their book, written by the pair in 500-word chunks, trading back and forth via email.

“Rapture” follows Huw Jones, a rare luddite, or a person who doesn’t adopt certain technologies for personal reasons, on an Earth passed over by the technological singularity, which is the ascent of computers and humans into superintelligent rapidly-involving immortal entities. From time to time, the cloud of computer superintelligences orbiting Earth spams the planet with designs for potentially dangerous technology.

Jones joins the technology jury, a design-spam regulation body, to help prevent the spread of these technologies. However, by the end of the novel, he joins forces with the superintelligences and adopts their technologies to represent all of Earth, mortals and computers, before a galactic jury of even higher and stranger beings.

Most of the superintelligences in “Rapture” are humans who have uploaded scans of their meat-brains into the fog made of matter optimized for computing that surrounds Earth. At first, they play the role of antagonists, but events later in the story pair mere mortal Jones with the cloudminds, which are quite literally minds living in the computer cloud, against stranger and more dangerous threats.

Stross and Doctorow’s continuous edits have created a seamless blend between the two writers’ styles. Doctorow writes mostly dystopian near-future fiction. Stross writes mostly far-future dystopian singularitarian science fiction, yet their different genres blend together into a page-turning dystopian novel.

I read the 349 pages in less than a day, but I have past familiarity with the worlds built by these authors. Fans of their work will note that “Rapture” is an expansion upon their previous joint short stories “Jury Duty” and “Appeals Court,” available free online. I purchased my copy of “Rapture” for $24.99, not including tax, from Barnes and Noble, and right now the book is only available in a hardback edition.

Grade: A

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