Accelerando (Review)

Accelerando (Review)

f I had to review this comment in a single line, I’d tell you this – it’s Snow Crash for a new century.

Accelerando follows three generations of a family, from 2010 (or so) through the hundreds of years to follow. We start with Manfred Macx, a “venture altruist” (meaning he has great ideas, but because he thinks the economics of scarcity is a dying concept, he’s giving them away to make others rich and hasten the in the brave new world). He’s married to a business-blade dominatrix, a rocky on-again, off-again, divorce-and-hatred sort of thing (she rapes him and glues her vagina shut to make sure his seed will take, just to have an offspring to use against him). And all this makes sense, as Charles Stross explains it, the whole virtual multitasking world that we are crashing into with reverberating waves of future shock. There is even a delightful bit where Manfred gets mugged and loses his processing tools, finding himself forced to think in a way he hasn’t done in years (with his gadgets, he just directs his apps and connects the dots).

The interesting thing about this book is the logical progression it takes, looking forward to what might be the only outcome of all these apple iPads and Google glasses, the blind and inevitable collision with the singularity, that moment when machines outpace the human brain and the monkeys are no longer in charge of the store. As the story continues and time passes, our sense of cultural vertigo increases as the world, then the solar system, changes. What can you do when the controlling AIs (most of them corporate, and soulless, and working under Economics 2.0) begin to dismantle the inner systems, turning them in to a cloudy haze of processing power? And what can you do when you get confirmation that this is what happens to all races, that all of them fall to their thinking machines (which, like over-specialized creatures, Darwin themselves out of existence)?

It was an interesting book, but as the name implies, the rate of change (and the blossoming technology) became more and more confusing. By the end of the tale, I was only vaguely understanding what was happening, and the big climax fell a little flat. And perhaps that’s the problem with dealing with accelerating technology with a 55 year old brain – I can’t think fast enough to follow it.

But it’s a good book. Even if you can’t follow the story, some of the references are a laugh riot. This one’s worth cracking the cover.