Thursday, April 03, 2008


I've never read a book that made me quite so suicidal.

This is by far one of the best books I've read in a decade of reading (lets let it settle in before I really consider how far to take that). The characters are complex, the universe is fast paced and develops faster than the plot (which, in a somewhat recursive way, is sort of the point), and through the somewhat disjointed skipping forward through a timeline that's, theoretically, all in our near future - is something that falls somewhere between an Orwellian cautionary tale and a crystal meth inspired Gibsonian nightmare.

Stross is an author who uses words - and he uses them around IDEAS. In fact, he turns about and uses those ideas as words - applying names to author concepts and flinging them at you in a density that, if you're not familiar, will bounce away like superfluous egg on teflon and if you are will stick and strike like shoemaker-levy on a bad day. This thing is dense - and its VERY fast - and it comes from all sorts of angles... and it holds up in too many ways. The idea of singularity - and what it means to the concept of human condition - is not unknown in other works (Vinge loves this one). But going beyond it - asking 'what next' or 'is there an exit'... those are fascinating landscapes. Still, he leaves so many threads undone as the story spins out - and there are so many ways to take the ride - it's leagues ahead of the Merchant Princes series in depth and complexity, and by not losing the plot amongst too many principals (though he STILL has a tendency to throw characters away, just like Banks, when they've served a purpose) gives this one real legs.

Now... why suicidal... perhaps a better term is 'life ambivalent'
Ultimately this is a book about existence. It asks for definitions - and looks at purposes - and challenges a lot of what it means to be. There's some real thought in here... not that shitty subtle finding yourself on a grand travel adventure tripe... not that whiny self-absorbed prose from The Bard... this is big meatcleaver thinking - and it deserved to be Hugo shortlisted.

1 comment:

Karmadrome said...

I'm drinking a beer and blogging on the porch. Lori wanders by, asks "How's it going?"

"Rough night" I answer.

"Can I come up?"

That's good enough for to keep me going for the time being.