“The Rapture of the Nerds”

Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross

Had a bit of a roller coaster in reading this book—it started off well, with the sort of fascinating worldbuilding that I do associate with Doctorow’s visions of the future. By the midpoint, though, I found myself rooting for the vague sense of doom. None of the characters were at all likable, and the idea of everyone being removed from the universe to make it a better place for everyone else started to feel nice.

The second half recovered well, though, and while I still think the protagonist is a bit of an ass, there was at least some personal growth on display. A lot of that arc of the story reminded me of The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl—that same feeling of explorative transhumanism, and trying to apply computer science concepts (and scale!) to sentience. (That “bringing in actual computer science and engineering” stuff also reminds me of Ra, which takes a wildly different approach to this kind of story, but also quite enjoyable.)

Overall, I do totally recommend this book. And, being a Doctorow novel, you can actually pick it up as a free ebook, although I do recommend, for the sake of both the authors and the publisher that they apparently quite like, buying a physical copy.


“Radicalized,” or, “this just keeps getting more upsetting”

Cory Doctorow
One of my favorite concepts in science fiction is making one change and extrapolating it forward. What if Tesla and Edison’s war of the currents had resulted in most of the world outlawing electricity and doubling down on steam power? What if Superman had landed in Soviet Russia? What if somebody invented a machine that let you step between parallel worlds?
What Doctorow has done here is that, but instead of making one change, he doesn’t make a change, and extrapolates. What if we never fix copy right law? What if Juicero hadn’t collapsed? What if we never sort out healthcare?
The result is terrifying, because it feels… so very possible. It’s not the first time he’s done it, either — Little Brother was my first introduction to Doctorow, and it remains a poster child for the concept.
Reading both Little Brother and Radicalized, I didn’t feel like I was reading a novel; I felt like I was reading a warning. “We’re on a path that leads to this, or something just like it,” he’s saying. “I’m worried, and you should be too.”
Worry with me; it’s a good read, and well worth the time.1

  1. It also contains a great take on Superman, and a strangely uplifting story about the apocalypse; seriously, read it. 

Eastern Standard Tribe

I finished reading Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe during my weekend camping trip – out in the desert, the river is great for swimming in once it warms up, but it takes until pretty deep into the day for it to be anything other than ‘borderline arctic’ temperatures, so I had plenty of time to read.
Anyhow, Eastern Standard Tribe. My favorite thing about Doctorow’s writing is how clearly he understands modern technology – there’s some nods to IRC in the book, and a lot of what I know about common cryptography I learned from his books.
EST has two plotlines going on at once, though both follow the same character, just at different times in his life. They’re separated by a few months, and the one in the ‘past’ runs faster than the ‘current’ one, catching up to where the one started by the end of the book.
I’m pretty happy with the plot of the book, actually – I still find the concept of the Tribes weird, but it got explained in a way that makes a lot of sense to me, so at least it didn’t stay confusing the whole time. The inclusion of all the user experience stuff was really interesting, and I quite enjoyed the MassPike music thing that wound up being a significant chunk of the plot.
It’s warming up enough that I’m going to get ready to head down to the water, so I’ll finish this up with yet another call to action: go read something Doctorow wrote. I don’t care if it’s Eastern Standard Tribe or not, but he’s a wonderful author, and everything he’s written is available for free on his website,