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3.8 out of 5 stars51
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 27 August 2007
Don't believe the detractors, this is one of the most far sighted, visionary and original pieces of SF to emerge in the past 20 years.

Accelerando takes the reader into a future not so far from our own in subjective time (most of the book is set less than 100 years in the future) but through, as another reviewer said, tackling the idea of the technological singularity head on Stross delves into a world which by its very definition is at an incomprehensible remove from that of the reader. His masterstroke lies in sustaining this sense of alien change whilst keeping enough of a thread of understandable humanity runnning through the story.

Be prepared to have to re-read passages and to take the time to do a bit of side research on his ideas, technical details and vocabulary, but prepare also to be rewarded by a true 'sense of wonder', that of standing teetering on the brink of a fathomless gulf of experience over and above and beyond your ken . . .

Woven through these towering ideas there is a hugely powerful thread of character, for those who read carefully enough . . . the Macx family with its forks, twists and disfunctions is presented, in a way, as a reflection of the future shattering of human values as we currently understand them. And, whilst trying not to give anything away, the thread which ties all this together is a character who I think is one of the most believably, spine chillingly developed images of an alien intelligence yet written.

My caveat would be that this is not a book for those who are just starting to delve into sci-fi. There are both explicit references to and subtle echoes of many previous works of SF. Some obvious authors (again, as others have said) who have influenced Stross and the genre he writes in are William Gibson, Vernor Vinge, Neal Stephenson and Ian M. Banks, and these all offer their own delights which are, for the most part, easier to tackle and digest than Accelerando.

But if you put the effort into understanding it, the vision, innovation and control of ideas in Stross' writing will leave you reeling.

Addendum: If the book's world were true the Amazon sentient class action lawsuits might come knocking at my door for this - the full text of Accelerando has been made available with full permission of author and publisher at accelerando dot org for free download. Good to see Stross backing the convictions on drm expressed in the book for real!
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Let me try to explain the 3 star rating.

On one hand, the technology used and described in the book is fantastical and brilliantly researched. It is not visionary as some reviews would have you believe - a quick browse on Wiki shows that all of the ideas in this book have been thought of already, but don't let that detract you in the slightest. It's a wonderful delve into what the future could bring, and indeed some of the ideas such as glasses with CPUs in them are already happening. 5 stars for this eye opening and well written dimension to the novel - especially considering there's a lot of fact-based learning to be had.

I would also recommend having a Wiki to hand whilst reading the book, in fact there is already a website wiki made solely for the book (have a quick Google).

Therein lies one problem. A book that requires a wiki to understand is not exactly free-flowing. No attempt is made to explain some of the concepts - not even a glossary. So if you want to enjoy the book you have to have the internet available. Not a great way to enjoy a book, but some may be able to tolerate this.

The second issue is that the grammar and writing style borders on the obnoxious. Woefully over-complicated grammar ruins some paragraphs. And it's not necessary for about 50% of the text. I don't know what the author was trying to prove, but it ends up with dialogue that is incredibly hard to read. I love sci-fi and technical novels, but this is in a league of its own.

So, in conclusion buy the book if you want a technically brilliant and hugely in depth text that will have you reaching for wiki every two pages. Some may love this, although I believe the majority will not.
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on 24 February 2007
Vernor Vinge created something of a problem for SF authors with his idea of a technological singularity. Accelerando is possibly the first novel to tackle this head on. Starting in the near future, it narrates along the exponential curve of computer power that rapidly leads all the way to solar-system-spanning AI. Stretching characters and a plot across such a canvas is a tall order, and inevitably the story is a little ragged at times, particularly toward the end. However, Stross really manages to pull it off remarkably well. This is SF that takes the idea of exponential progress and runs with it further and deeper than anything I've seen before. It's not a perfect book, but if you like the SF of ideas, you'll enjoy the ride.
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on 24 November 2007
I like Stross's Laundry novels - as I suspect anyone with an affection for English spy fiction, and experience of English bureacracy, would do. However, that's a pretty closed world, so this excursion into the hardest of hard sf is a laudable attempt to engage with the mainstream.
This particular theme is territory that has been explored by Vinge et al. What is commonly acknowleded is that the Singularity will be incomprehensible to us. What, therefore, can they write about? The answer is usually an exploration of what happens to those that choose to remain & therein lies the problem with this book. The main mass of humanity (and sentient financial instruments & all the interesting stuff) heads off into the white areas of the map The protagonsts are essentially reactive to events that happen off stage and that never makes for a compelling tale.
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on 17 August 2006
An occasionally confusing and sometimes confused narrative, this is nevertheless a compelling read. The high-octane style of its opening chapters give it an escape velocity that takes it beyond Gibson, and plunges into a world strikingly reminiscent, if more believable than 'The Dangers of the Last Days'.

Taking near future technologies as it departure point, it accelerates inexorably towards the event horizon of that obsession of postmodern apocalyptic - the collapse of the 'real'. And in doing so, it does what all good science fiction does. A family saga, set across three generations, it takes relations that we would normally recognise and re-imagines them, using technology and the 'real' to examine the notion of identity and what, ultimately, it means to belong to humanity. And all with a wry smile.

Definitely worth a read.
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on 25 July 2008
The most believable prediction for the future of humanity that you've ever likely to read, Stross takes his readers on a journey through the life of a transhuman meme-broker who, as a Singulatarian advocates the push away from human beings and into whatever comes next. When it has finally arrived half a century later the old protagonist is a relic of the past, as inflexible and set in his ways as the generations before him.

The real beauty of this story is the realism of the predictions, Stross' technology takes ideas from futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and projects them through time with absolute clarity of vision. The technological enhancements of consciousness don't start with microchips in people's heads, but with slight improvements to the portability and accessibility of existing technology. Stross validated my opinion that keyboards, mice and search engines are actually enhancements of the human mind, and that the slow take-off has already begun. Google is the first steps toward thread-based AI information agents and Wikipedia is our collective memory dump. If painting a believable path for the fate of humanity wasn't enough, he also extrapolates to include aliens and even hints at the end state of the universe. Mind blowing stuff.

I can only find a few faults with this book, the first being that the character development is rather lacking. The second is that the view that AI's would have some kind of real internal experience is an unorthodox one, one that even as a Monist I have trouble subscribing to. Finally, by the end of the book the children of humanity are so unlike ourselves that they are impossible to describe, so after a point Stross simply focuses on the human story instead.

Even after reading this I am still rooting for the machines. Goodbye Sol system, hello Dyson Cloud!
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on 11 October 2011
Having read Stross' Halting State already this year, I kind of knew what to expect- high lingo density with tenacity for accurate futurology. Accelerando starts (Part 1, Scenes 1-3) in a future much like Halting State, actually- rich in tech, internet connectivity and hardware interface. A few years down the line (Part 2, scenes 4-6 and we experience the plot around Jupiter and a little bit beyond with a wave of socioeconomic change, the approach of the `singularity,' and an unyielding torrent of new technologies. For the finale (Part 3, scenes 7-9) we're confronting a reality which makes little sense to us upright monkeys: seemingly magical wonders, bizarre family reunions and galactic neighborhoods. All in all, it's quite the trip!

Part 1: Slow Take-off - 3/5 - Slow indeed.
Scene 1: Lobsters - 4/5 - Uploaded lobsters demand freedom!
Scene 2: Troubbour - 3/5 - Marriage on the rocks.
Scene 3: Tourist - 2/5 - Specs swiped! Sweat it out.

Part 2: Point of Inflection - 5/5 - The jovial Jovian gang.
Scene 1: Halo - 5/5 - Maintaining a Jovial kingdom is tough work.
Scene 2: Router - 5/5 - Jovian & Extra-solar parallel stories.
Scene 3: Nightfall - 4/5 - Oh, now what do we do?

Part 3: Singularity - 4/5 - Post-singularity? Duality or...
Scene 1: Curator - 3/5 - Another branch, another headache.
Scene 2: Elector - 3/5 - Saturn settlement faces challenges ahead.
Scene 3: Survivor - 4/5 - We're, like, so outta here.
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on 12 December 2007
In my humble opinion the book is very interesting. Probably quite a lot of ideas make more sense to people who have been studying biology and programming. The reading is a bit difficult for the first fifth of the book because one struggles somewhat to get one's head around the ideas that have been crammed into such small space. Then it gets purely exciting and interesting. I guess the reader who mentioned unlifelikeness of characters has a point but I suppose this could be viewed also as an artistic device to say how hard it is now to imagine how people would think post-singularity.
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This was my third Charles Stross book after Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise and is IMHO the best so far. As with his previous novels, Stross seems to start with themes of other authors, but in this book he synthesises and extrapolates to a much greater degree.

The book starts in a late era Gibson-esque technological world, with Ken Macleod's politics bolted on the side. From that point, the central character Mannfred Macx, a sort of viral technological idea generator, spawns/is carried along by a cognitive revolution as more and more human thought is carried on in electronic media in which corporations and indepedendent AIs also become autonomous.

An interstallar voyage by Macx's daughter leads to realisation about the ultimate result of technological development which generates the novel's denouement regarding the survival of humanity.

The books strengths are the coherent story developed by extrapolating from current technology and its sense of wonder and fun. Its weakness is the sometimes rather dense technobabble. Just let that ride and stick with the story and you'll enjoy this book - recommended.
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on 7 January 2014
For me, one of the hallmarks of greatness is that a book can be read and re-read multiple times, and on each occasion you are going to find something new and valuable in it. I have just read Accelerando for the fifth time and I am still being startled by its depth, imagination width and scope. For me, it is Stross's best book and fully merits a five star rating.

It will be interesting to see, as the century wanes, just how closely the trajectory of history really mimics that laid out in this progression of family photographs, this procession of stories describing three generations of one family in a technologically run-away future. One can only hope that the answer is, "Not too closely" because, underneath the fun, the jokes and the ferocious bursts of invention there lies a profoundly sobering message about the limited prospects of both human and the human ecosystem in an environment of consistently accelerating change.

This is not a book for everyone. It will prove difficult for those who do not have some kind of handle on computing and biotechnology. It will seem unlovely those who love lyrical writing or careful delineation of character. The people who populate this book are etched in lines of laser light, bursts of colour on the eyes of the imagination rather than detailed pen-and-ink engravings.

Above all this is a book which is aimed at the cognoscenti. It would be as inadvisable to give this book to a reader with limited experience with SF as it would be to take a novice skier onto a black run. Stross throws out speculations, inventions and bits of technology (some real, some entirely fictitious) at a rate which is every bit as fast as his "venture-altruist" hero Manfred Macx, and the torrent is likely to over-awe and, quite possibly, drown the man or woman who has not spent a fair amount of time learning to kayak through speculative waters. He knows the tropes and idioms of SF and both subverts and extends them. Amongst many other things, this book includes descriptions of first contact between humans and aliens, and the prospects opened up by an inter-galactic network, only to treat both with a relentless bathos which radically transforms the genres traditional handling of such tropes.

At times it can feel as if the book has become an example of the very themes it seeks to illustrate. The pace at which the ideas come at you can leave you feeling disorientated and confused. But those with the skill and experience to handle the ride will be rewarded with some mind-expanding ideas and and a book which manages to connect the cosmic with the personal and political in a way unmatched by almost anything else which I have read.
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