Accelerando

Charles Stross
Accelerando

Even if he did not really like it, after reading the review of Accelerando by Charles Stross on the blog of Alias, I was quite curious about it. I read the copy that Angel let me in three days. The book talks about many things: sentient lobsters, corporations written in Python, couple relationships and power. But the central theme is the singularity, often described in the book as the rapture of the geek. That notion appeared in many science-fiction books published in the last decade, the idea that technological progress reaches the point where new ideas are not the fruit of normal humans, but either from artificial intelligence, enhanced creatures, or a mix thereof. I must say I have my reservations on the whole singularity meme, as this often treated in a quasi-religious way by geeks, still the book looked interesting.

Malice – revenge for waking him up – sharpens Manfred’s voice. “The president of agalmic.holdings.root.184.97.AB5 is agalmic.holdings.root.184.97.201. The secretary is agalmic.holdings.root.184.D5, and the chair is agalmic.holdings.root.184.E8.FF. All the shares are owned by those companies in equal measure, and I can tell you that their regulations are written in Python. Have a nice day, now!” He thumps the bedside phone control and sits up, yawning, then pushes the do-not-disturb button before it can interrupt again. After a moment he stands up and stretches, then heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth, comb his hair, and figure out where the lawsuit originated and how a human being managed to get far enough through his web of robot companies to bug him.

Accelerando
Charles Stross
Penguin Books
ISBN : 978-0-441-01415-6

Accelerando follows the three generations of the same family, before, during and after that event. The story starts with something very close to Cyberpunk to end up with far out science-fiction. The text has its flaws, the writing is sometimes a bit sloppy, some metaphors seemed to be used verbatim in multiple places, but I must say I agree with the quote on book cover: “Accelerando is to cyberpunk what Napster was to the music industry: volatile, visionary, a bit flawed, and a lot of fun.”, the book contains many ideas, and a very dynamic style. The first part reminded me of Snow Crash, and felet like good fast cyberpunk. I was less enthusiastic for the second part: Charles Stross does not have so many original post-singularity ideas. There is an certain irony in reading a book about acceleration that feels like it slows down at the end. Charles Stress does not seem to have caliber of Walter John Williams or Iain Banks, in fact the end reminded me a lot of the last Heinlein books, the weird ones, except that in this case the cat is called aineko instead of pixel. Besides this, the book is littered with references, from Spider Jerusalem to Lisp jokes.

In conclusion, a fun book, which is very enjoyable despite its flaws. One thing worth mentioning is that the book is available for free in electronic form under a Creative Common License. Kudos to the author to live up to the ideals of his characters.

2 thoughts on “ Accelerando

  1. Je l’avais commencé et pas fini… par manque de tissu cérébral actif capable d’ingurgiter une référence ou une idée par paragraphe (et pas dans ma langue natale). L’arrivée d’un bébé à la maison n’est pas le meilleur moment pour ce genre de livre. Je le reprendrais bien un de ces quatre.

    C’est tout de même le premier livre où je vois utilisé le terme “to slashdot” comme si c’était dans le vocabulaire courant.

  2. Je crois l’avoir vu dans Cryptonomicon avant ça, mais je peux me tromper.

    De Stross, j’ai trouvé Halted State bien meilleur.

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