Accelerando Mass Market Paperback – Jun 27 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Stross (Singularity Sky) explores humanity's inability to cope with molecular nanotechnology run amok in this teeming near-future SF stand-alone. In part one, "Slow Takeoff," "free enterprise broker" Manfred Macx and his soon-to-be-estranged wife/dominatrix, Pamela, lay the foundation for the next decade's transhumans. In "Point of Inflection," Amber, their punky maladjusted teenage daughter, and Sadeq Khurasani, a Muslim judge, engineer and scholar, try to escape the social chaos that antiaging treatments have wreaked on Earth by riding a tin can–sized starship via nanocomputerization to a brown dwarf star called Hyundai. The Wunch, trade-delegation aliens evolved from uploaded lobster mentalities, and Macx's grandson, Sirhan, roister through "Singularity," in which people become cybernetic constructs. Stross's three-generation experiment in stream-of-artificial-consciousness impresses, but his flat characters and inchoate rapid-fire explosions of often muzzily related ideas, theories, opinions and nightmares too often resemble intellectual pyrotechnics—breathtakingly gaudy but too brief, leaving connections lost somewhere in outer/inner/cyber space.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* During the last five years, Stross has garnered a reputation as one of the most imaginative practitioners of hard sf. Expanded from several stories originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, Stross' latest novel follows several generations of the Macx family through the rapidly transforming, Internet-enabled global economy of the early twenty-first century to the human and transhuman populated worlds of the outer solar system a half century later. The saga begins with Macx patriarch Manfred, a freelance "venture altruist," giving away patentable high-tech ideas in exchange for endless handouts while looking forward to the day when nanotech-programmed smart matter surpasses humanity in intelligence and productivity. Fifteen years later, his adolescent daughter Amber is an indentured astronaut trolling the orbit of Jupiter, and by 2070, Sirhan is Amber's permanently space-bound offspring, paying witness to the fruits of his grandfather's early innovations as something ominous and nonhuman is systematically dismantling the planets from Pluto to Earth. Stross has his thumb squarely on the pulse of technology's leading edge and exults in extrapolating mere glimmers of ideas out to their mind-bending limits. His brilliant and panoramic vision of uncontrollably accelerating technology vaults him into the front rank of sf trailblazers, alongside Gibson and Stephenson, and promises to become a seminal work in the genre. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
True to its theme, there's far too much going on in Accelerando to easily condense its plot, let alone its grander ideas: in the early 21st Century, Manfred Macx is an Elon Musk-type technologist with designs on advancing space travel and creating precedent for the rights of non-human intelligences, all while publishing everything open-source. He undergoes a bitter divorce from his wife Pamela, who freezes an embryo against his will. Years pass, and Pamela has raised a daughter named Amber, who soon realizes how manipulative her mother can be. Amber escapes Earth using a plan of Manfred's with the help of his ever-smarter AI cat Aineko, and ends up establishing a tidy little empire on a private asteroid near Jupiter. After decoding alien signals that provide a map to some kind of galactic wormhole hub known as a "router", Amber and crew mind-upload into the Field Circus, a mass of computronium with a light sail driven by a Jupiter-based laser, and journey into the router, essentially marking the moment of the singularity. The last third of the novel then introduces Sirhan (son of the physical copy of Amber), Amber's struggles on the other end of the router, and the tri-generational fiasco that ensues when the dysfunctional Macx family all meets up in virtual space towards the end of the century.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But THIS one...this one goes a little beyond mere enjoyment.
SF writers are actually notoriously bad at accurately predicting the future. The danger is in extrapolating trends - "extrapolating" is roughly the same as "getting it wrong". So, no Soylent Green ("Make room, make room"), no eco-catastrophe (lots of novels from the 60s), etc.
Knowing that, an author has to work pretty hard to make us suspend our disbelief. Suspension of disbelief is not the same as hanging it by the neck until it's dead! Stross manages this so well in "Accelerando" it's frightening. He makes the impact on technology on human society, identity and consciousness totally believable. Of COURSE our consciousness is going to be decentralized, split between bits still running in the old wetware and bits running as external agents on other platforms. Of COURSE there's going to be a Singularity (and this is the most believable one I've read about yet). And of COURSE there's a perfectly societal response to all that.
The characters are still recognizably human, but sometimes just barely. One particularly well-written passage has one of the main characters lose his external computer support (disguised as a pair of specs) through which he was running many of his supplementary agents and programs. He is like a man with brain damage after that. He can still function, but his thought processes are..alien to us.
Stross is also very fond of casually tossing HUGE concepts into half a sentence during a conversation. I kept cracking up at his mention of what were essentially self-aware financial instruments - your options are coming to GET you!
This is a wonderful book. Dazzling, captivating, occasionally very funny and just a damn good read. Highly recommended. Hugo Award next year.
The novel was originally a series of self contained short stories and is very episodic. As such, there is a series of events that are all resolved within the same chapter only to come unravelled at the start of the next. However, all the smaller story elements fit into a greater arc chronicling humanity's rapid rise, obsolescence and recovery.
Stross's writing is excellent, although computer literacy is a must. Indeed, this isn't an easy read but it is quite a ride and well recommended.
In this novel, Manfred Macx is a genius who is patenting lots of primal ideas and assigning the rights to several Free Foundations and variously selected beneficiaries. He gets free passes and other nonmonetary compensation from these astounded recipients, thus has little need for cash. Manfred has an ongoing sexual affair with Pamela, an IRS entrepreneur who constantly reminds him of his estimated tax arrears.
Pamela traps him into getting her pregnant and then forces him to marry her. Manfred is reasonably satisfied with the arrangement except for the arguments about their frozen female embryo. Three years after their marriage, Mandred is on the run while his divorce is being processed.
Manfred is harassed by Alan Glashwiecz, who has been retained to pursue Pamela's interests in the divorce. However, he also encounters Annette -- a representative of Arianespace -- whom he had previously met three year before. Annette breaks his preoccupation with Pamela by seducing him in her apartment.
In this story, Amber is his daughter, who eventually gets thawed and birthed. She gets her first neural implants at the age of three and finds herself able to function in the adult world. Yet Pam doesn't consider Amber worth consulting on her life and raises her to be independent of her neural auxiliaries. So Pam runs away at the age of twelve.
Sirhan is the son of Amber -- the one in Jupiter orbit -- who grows up to be a historian. He legally seizes his mothers assets and drives her into bankruptcy. Then the other Amber -- the one on the interstellar voyage -- returns to find that she has become a party to the lawsuit.
This story reads like William Gibson on Angel Dust. The story starts out strange and gets even wilder. Of course, the Singularity has something to do with it.
This story took the author five years to write. One suspects that he had to take time out to let his brain cool. Enjoy!
Recommended for Stross fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of the coming Singularity, expansion into space, and interstellar aliens.
-Arthur W. Jordin
Charles Stross is a former pharmacist, former programmer and journalist, certified geek, and current full time writer. Most people would tag him as 'science fiction' writer. From what I've read of his journals, and especially his books, he's terribly bright and very imaginative.
Accelerando is one of his commercially successful books (scan it for free before you buy at accelerando.org). The amateur Amazon reviews are well done (one of the two 'professional' reviews is by someone who didn't read the book); I can't add much to them. The book does not fully succeed as a novel -- it was published as a series of short stories and it doesn't hang together all that well. There are some annoying plot holes (no security on the goggles? Did one of the lead characters flee to alpha centauri or commit suicide? Why is Pierre asking what happened - he was there?!), some dangling and overly fluid characters, and too many annoying synopses of 'what went before'. The writing itself is professional, and that's no mean trick, but the work would have needed a harsher editor and a complete rewrite to fly as a novel.
That's ok, because it's really a series of speculative essays disguised as a novel -- and the thinking is deep and creative. I thought I was being a bit whacky when I blogged about the spanish inquisition as a corporation, and the emergent sentience of corporations in the ecosystem of economic interactions, but Stross goes much, much further. He plays with the idea that at some point the relationship between finance wizard and financial instrument might be inverted, so that souls would be traded by sentient financial instruments. That's not bad; I can just about see how it might happen ...
The embedded essay I most enjoyed reading, however, is on one of my all-time favorite topics -- the Fermi Paradox. This is one of those conumdrums that bothers a very few people a great deal and is irrelevant to most of humanity.
In short, we ought by all rights, to be overrun by little green beings. The puzzle is that we appear to have much of the galaxy to ourselves. To the Fermi fan-boys this is the biggest question around, to which matters of theology or epistemology are merely academic.
The answer to the Fermi Paradox is most often expressed in the terms of the Drake Equation. The best bet is that something utterly inevitable ends all technological civilizations like our own in well under a thousand years. The most popular candidate for an "inevitable fate" over the past 23 years has been the Singularity (Greg Bear's 1982 short story 'Blood Music' is the earliest version of the Singularity theory I know of, Vernor Vinge developed the ideas extensively in the early 1990s.) Stross takes these ideas and pushes the boundaries. Why might a post-singular entity find travel unappealing? Why would it be hard for entities like us to live near such a beast -- even if it didn't spend any time thinking about us?
Reading Stross is like having an extremely bright and free thinking fellow over for a beer (or something, these UK writers seem fond of a range of substances). He tracks all over the place, the narrative doesn't always hang together, but it's a heck of a lot of fun -- and where else can a geek get his Fermi fix?
What's nice about Stross' writing is that even as the ideas get wild, the writing stays grounded; it doesn't hurt to be a hard-core futurist when reading this book, but it's not absolutely required. What *is* required is a willingness to let the top of your head get screwed off while Stross pours in several gallons of wild speculation. If you can handle that, you're going to be in for a treat. Acclerando is one of the books the rest of the genre will calibrate from.
Will this book deliver yet another Hugo nomination for Stross? It'd be a shame if it didn't.