from the insane-in-the-m-brane dept.
I was initally under the impression that Postsingular and Hylozoic continued the Ware Tetralogy but these are two distinct fictional "universes". Although there is an expectation for authors to continually out-do themselves with ever more fantastical ideas, Postsingular fails to satisfy on multiple criteria. It is too knowingly in the present, using "tweet" in the contemporary context and also having search engines. It may be that Rudy Rucker's feedback from fans and increased knowledge about computing makes the book less entertaining.
Regardless, nanotechnology, synthetic telepathy, natural telepathy and multiple forms of teleportation are explored in depth in the context of reality television, augmented reality spam and post-scarcity economics. Several characters are introduced very poorly and Rudy Rucker continues a tradition of ridiculous character names. Thankfully, characters become more rounded as plot develops. One character, Dick Dibbs, is uncannily similar to Donald Trump and Postsingular accurately captures some of the North American 2016 pre-election hysteria almost 10 years before it occurred.
Given Rudy Rucker's previous dependence upon Penrose tiling in the Ware Tetralogy, it was surprising that it was only mentioned once, obliquely, when a building was described as having an irregular pattern of triangles. However, readers of Postsingular would benefit from an understanding of Cantor dust, reversible computing, quantum computing, entropy in the context of bitstrings, public key cryptography, timing attacks, nanobot gray goo scenarios, Planck units and the untestable pseudo-science of superstring theory.
The extensive writing notes are available and provide character background information, deleted scenes, book promotion details and interaction with publishers and literary agents. The latter may may of particular interest to lesser-known science fiction authors. The writing notes also reveal that Postsingular was heavily influenced by Charles Stross' Accelerando and the attempt to build and differentiate from this work may explain why Postsingular errs more towards Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon rather than the Ware Tetralogy.
Postsingular has numerous plot holes. For example, it is never explained why a telepathic race retains speech. Nor is it explained how a quantum shielded building remains unmapped when nanobots freely pass in and out of the area. There is also a pointlessly grating book-within-a-book which is being written by a needlessly exotic character. Furthermore, the book-within-a-book becomes an increasingly belated account of an event which would have experienced by every potential reader. By far, it is not the best example of A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.
The climax is less satisfying than any of the Tetralogy books because allegiances switch freely and the final line-up of "good guys" win through superior firepower rather than moral imperative. Postsingular could have explored folklore, religion, memes and imagery in much more detail. Instead, it concentrated a rogue hacker saving the world, a corrupt politician, San Francisco counter-culture, an indifferent/malevolent AI, a boy genius and an evil genius with tertiary transsexual characteristics. I'm vaguely surprised that there wasn't an antagonist with an evil hand. Although Postsingular is inferior to Snowcrash and Accelerando, it is superior to Cryptonomicon, the Difference Engine and REAMDE. Despite much silliness, it is thoroughly enjoyable.
Postsingular is available under a restrictive Creative Commons licence. However, HTML and PDF versions may by truncated. An EPub [PKZip of XML] with SHA512 fafc56c94f71969535b5e568582cdfb3bcbbb951b7b00f6518492012c7b5488b82d580a77c6ecfdaf03b3b2af7ae0c100a461063dc65202c3766b41c87474d1c may be preferable. The sequel, Hylozoic, is available under commercial license.
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This review contains spoilers.
I thought I'd got a remaindered, 1000 page, hardback book, from a prominent author, at an absolute bargain price because the publisher made a typo on the cover. Unfortunately, that typo is deliberate. It was made by one of the characters in the book and gets propagated widely in malware.
I read this book to the end so that I could provide a fair review for SoylentNews but I really wish that I hadn't. At around the 75% mark, I wanted to abandon the book. Around the 95% mark, I was more interested in my bookmark than the book itself. The problem is that the book is too detailed and yet not detailed enough. The plot flips from a semi-autobiographical character to a dodgy Scottish accountant for the Russian Mafia to a needlessly exotic Black, Welsh, lesser-known contemporary of Osama bin Laden. Internal motive is rarely explained and therefore Welsh's Islamic subjugation of another needlessly exotic character makes her seem like a really irritating Mary Sue when it should have been a highly researched study of cultural belief.
Until reading What ISIS Really Wants, I thought the book would have benefited highly from Mary Sue being killed in the first half. Either way, it may be beneficial to read this book while referring to an atlas. It certainly seems to be written that way.