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Accelerando Mass Market Paperback – Jun 27 2006


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Amazon.com: 157 reviews
132 of 147 people found the following review helpful
Head-butted by the future July 20 2005
By Ivo J. Steijn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've been discovering Stross' novels in highly non-chronological order. "Singularity sky" impressed the *beep* out of me with its combination of imagination and humor, and some of his other novels have also been very enjoyable.

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.
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
A great collection of stories in novel form July 30 2005
By Matt Hausig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Stross has written expansively on the concept of the Vingean Singularity, where the rate of technological advance increases so rapidly that the future cannot be foreseen. In Accelerando he charts the course of three generations of the Macx family before during and after the singularity.

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.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Explorations of the biggest questions - disguised as a novel July 9 2006
By John Faughnan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
[This review was first written on my web site. Amazon does not allow URLs to be embedded, but if you google on gordon's notes you can probably find the online version -- that one has lots of fun links to explore.]

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?
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The Singularity Is Coming March 31 2008
By Arthur W. Jordin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Accelerando (2005) is a standalone SF novel. It is set in the near future during the meltdown of nation states and capitalism. The EU has self-disorganized into the European Confederacy and the United States is almost bankrupt. And the underground economy is taking over the world.

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
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is not your father's science fiction. April 10 2006
By C. ANZIULEWICZ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
By the time I finished ACCELERANDO, I was again reminded how it's just as well that we are, each of us, only so long for this world. With the increasing pace of technological change being what it is, this world is starting to get a little too weird for me already, and I'm not even 50! Imagine living in the mid-21st century timeframe Charles Stross sets his novel against: A time in which the interface between the human mind and the digital realm allows for a genuine expansion of consciousness and the evolution of our species into something new and just a little frightening.

ACCELERANDO deals with three generations of the Macx family, beginning in Manfred, who could have been born in the 1980s and now, as a thirty-something adult, has vast amounts of computer processing power sewn into his clothing and experiences so much of his reality via the web that without his hardware he's all but deaf, dumb, and blind. In Manfred's world we are learning to literally "upload" the brains of living creatures, neuron by neuron, into cyberspace. Later, in the world of Manfred's daughter, Amber, humans can use digital technology to spin off "ghosts," rudimentary copies of their consciences that can worry about rudimentary tasks. By the time Amber's son, Sirhan, starts coming into his own, most of the human beings in the inner solar system have uploaded into cyberspace, the inner planets are being systematically pulverized and turned into raw material for increasing computer bandwidth, and our own sun is little more than an energy source for a growing, almost God-like digital mind. Stranger still is the suggestion that intelligent lifeforms elsewhere in the universe often share similar fates.

Needless to say, ACCELERANDO is highly speculative and ideological, even veering toward satire at times. The novel raises all kinds of provocative questions about the nature of consciousness, identity, and even what we commonly call the soul. In the process Stross throws at the reader all kinds of techno-jargon that we can barely make heads or tails of, though computer geeks will probably have a easier time of it. For me, this made the novel rather difficult to absorb at times, and the parts that take place in purely virtual reality got a bit annoying.

And yet I couldn't shake the suspicion that maybe Charles Stross is really on to something here. 200 years ago a 70 year old and a 17 year old could carry on a conversation in mutually understandable terms. Today that's just not possible, and the pace of technological change is accelerating ever more. Technology, specifically digital computer technology, is shaping who we are as humans and what our society is becoming. Resistance is futile.

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