04 November, 2012

Review: The Rapture of the Nerds

The Rapture of the Nerds The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Post-singularity scifi is always weird, but Doctorow & Stross do an excellent job of describing the weirdness rationally in a way that feels more scifi than fantasy. It's definitely a fun read, though I doubt I'd ever choose to pick up the book a second time.

While the largest defect of the novel was (for me at least) an inability to really empathize with the main character, the most visible defect was certainly the sheer number of obscure references packed into the book. Those not moderately versed in physics, philosophy, computer science, political philosophy, science fiction culture, and (of course) the singularity, will undoubtedly miss out on several references the authors make within. Whether it's Nightcrawler or daleks, Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov or Ayn Rand, this novel never stops calling back to outside ideas that most people will not be fully up to speed on, even as the plot relentlessly moves forward.

The profundity of obscurity in most of these references can only be intended as a way of letting the authors reward those readers who catch each reference again and again in an ever-increasing paroxysm of positive reinforcement that makes the reading of this book more akin to playing a video game than visually scanning a physical text. While I can't fault Doctorow & Stross for achieving what they've set out to do here, I can object on the ground that I'm not particularly into this kind of reference-intensive writing. I don't even like it particularly when James Joyce does it in Ulysses, so I hope it's understandable why I dislike how it is done here.

As such, I have decided upon giving this book a mediocre score. Not because it is mediocre per se, but because the area in which it excels is one that I'm just not all that impressed by. I can recommend this book only to those people that are into Joyce-style reference gang-bangs of pop culture mixed with science and philosophy alongside really, really weird post-singularity scifi. If you're into that stuff, read this. If not, stay away. And if, like me, you are slightly interested but not particularly amused by the FLCL-style hijinks, then it might be worth a read, even though it'll never be on your favorites list.

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