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The Rapture of the Nerds Paperback – 12 Apr 2013
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"mindbendingly entertaining... the novel is a surefire hit for genre fans. Fans of Adam Roberts' elegant, intellectually challenging SF will also be on firm ground here." --Booklist
Both Doctorow and (especially) Stross are writers who like to keep the ideas-per-page ratio as high as possible, and the level of inventive concepts thrown at the audience makes THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS a thrillingly imaginative read. --SFX Review
"Rapture of the Nerds is a glorious ride, that will make your head spin and fingers keep wanting to turn the pages." --Nerd Like You
About the Author
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing, and contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Wired, and many others. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. New York Times bestseller Little Brother was published in 2008.
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This is, of course, only the start of a series of fast moving and deeply convoluted adventures for Huw, featuring religious fanatics, a holographic djinn, Bonnie, his gender-shifting love interest - and that's only the start. It's rather as if Douglas Adams had torn up the first draft of Hitchhiker because it wasn't nearly weird enough. There are lots of allusions to coding, there's lots of metaphorical stuff about the cloud's hive-mind and ant-colonies, and comparisons between the great "uploading" and the so called "rapture" predicted by some sects. It's the sort of book that feels at times like it's trying to twist out of your hands. I wish that, like the AIs described herein, I could slow time (or rather, think faster) when necessary to allow me to absorb events. Indeed, the sheer density of ideas and events may be this book's main (only) flaw - especially in the third quarter, there at times the story completely lost me: most of it made sense in the end, but not all.
I think that Stross and Doctorrow do just about manage to tame their dragon of a narrative and bring it to a graceful landing, with Earth saved (of course Earth was at risk - where would the fun be otherwise?) through humanity not force: but they come within a whisker of burning down the town first - as it were.
I have in the past several times sat down and read both of these authors' books in a single sitting, being unable to put it down. Sadly with this, it was quite the opposite, I kept finding displacement activities in order NOT to read it. It took more than a week.
I like the whole concept of 'The Cloud', Charles Stross has covered it before of course, but I don't think it was done enough justice here. You don't get the feeling that it's huge, or a revolution in any way. The story told is all quite parochial, and involves only a few quite random characters, many of whom don't really add to the story.
My biggest problem is actually the randomness, it seems like the story changed direction on a whim, with no real progression. At times it felt like the plot was just pinballing around. Lots of interesting philosophical points were raised, but then dropped almost immediately without being exploited.
I won't give it away, but the ending was a complete anti-climax, lots of loose ends and no real build up and release of tension.
I couldn't help comparing it to a book I read a long time ago: "Job" by Robert Heinlein. In that the protagonist also suffered a series of trials as he was whisked along at the whim of others into new and challenging environments.
It didn't stand up well against that 30 year old barely sci-fi book by a borderline nazi, and that makes me sad in so many ways.
At the end of the 21st century Huw is one of the relatively few humans still living on Earth. He's a self-confessed, and proud, technophobe, happiest throwing pots the old-fashioned way in his 19th century terraced house. He's gone so far as to eschew electricity, although his push bike has a few more features than perhaps strictly necessary. His parents have long uploaded themselves to the cloud, along with most everyone else. Huw's determined to stay where he is, avoiding unnecessary technology as much as possible. He's thrilled to have been selected for tech jury service; not only can he fend off some useless innovation but he also gets to travel to Libya, and he's pretty excited about that.
Unfortunately for Huw, some joker has scrawled a biohazard symbol on his forehead at Sandra's party the night before. At least he hopes it was just a joke, although the itching and shifting symbol leave him a bit perturbed. Anyway, he has to start his trip in full-on biohazard gear, which leaves him none too thrilled. The journey is not exactly plush, the hotel is even worse, and he meets some seriously annoying people. Still, it'll all be worth it once jury service starts - right? It's not long before Huw's paranoia starts to twitch, and the thing about paranoia is that it doesn't mean they are not out to get you. Before long Huw is in deep deep trouble with just about everyone - he's being chased by various 'authorities', 'helped' by an assorted group of people with their own agendas, subject to physical depredations and seriously confused. Oh, and something is after his body. And something else would like his mind.
Huw is thrown from one dire situation to another, frequently captured, desperate, and rarely in charge of his own destiny for more than a moment. Everyone around wants something from him, the best he can do is figure out who is the least likely to kill him at any given time. He spends quite a lot of the book as a passive figure - stuff is done to him - but later on he gets to make some choices for himself. Not that they always work out all that well, but at least he had a go. It seems that he is far more important than he ever thought, the fate of the earth is on him, whether he likes it or not. Mostly he does not.
The book contains lots of ideas, about the future of the planet and humans, technology, alternative consciousness, and loads more. It deals with all these big ideas in a light-hearted, almost farcical way. Anything that can go wrong, does. This could be irritating, but actually I thought it worked. The story just keeps ploughing along at a fair old lick, dragging the reader along with it. I found it very entertaining, and felt an awful lot of sympathy for Huw and his predicament. He is given a proper character, we get to know him pretty well. Most of the other people are either more transient or simply unknowable in their shifting allegiances and priorities. But, even amid all the chaos there is still space for some very human relationships. Huw finds a little romance, and finally deals with his relationship with his parents. All whilst trying to save his home. Can't be bad!