A Review of Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow’s The Rapture of the Nerds

“Welcome to the fractured future, the first century following the singularity.”

Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow’s latest collaboration, The Rapture of the Nerds, proves to be a stimulating, simulating rendering of a post-singularity dystopian existence. Their intentionally spasmodic, subplot-riddled tale of the link between the ascended, transmuted post-humans who have uploaded to the smartcloud of superintelligence and the neo-primitive corporeal meatbody cousins whom they have left behind follows the bizarre and constantly altering path of Huw, a Welsh luddite technophobe who ends up the unwilling host to the parasitic Ambassador of the Cloud people. After a much-anticipated stint at tech jury duty is truncated due to his unwarranted esophageal tenant, Huw is catapulted into a tangled web of conspiracy, gender reassignment and viral cognition hijacking.

In a near- (or far-) future world where practically anything is possible following the singularity, one can only begin to fathom the intertwined and conflicting states of humanity and intelligent machinery; boundless technological abilities allow for boundless possibilities in both plot and character, and Stross and Doctorow do not disappoint when stretching the limits of imagination in their book. Rapture boasts a vast array of characters who weave and bob in and out of the narrative, oftentimes cropping up later in the text as a pivotal player in Huw’s frequently horrifying journey, although rarely are the relationships between them hashed out to any truly satisfying extent (however, one cannot put it past these two award-winning, sci-fi heavyweight authors that this could be a calculated depiction of the deterioration of relations and interaction in an increasingly digitized existence). With a myriad of innovative abstractions including a caustic Hypercolony of anarchistic ants, a polysexual pervert Bishop of the First Church of the Teledildonic, and holographic avatar djinni-in-a-teapots, Rapture posits some bizarre and scintillating theories of the post-singularity existence and its occupants.

Stross and Doctorow blend their two authorial styles together rather seamlessly, creating a book with intriguing language (featuring both OED-approved and fabricated selections) and a cognitively tickling plot that prominently revolves around the technological singularity and its ramifications. For those who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through the implications of the potential singularity, this novel offers the pleasant challenge of merely attempting to wrap your brain around the concept of the nihilistic landscape of an infinitely mutable sim reality in the interplanetary smartcloud wherein one must only learn to manipulate its raw computing power to have access to practically limitless impact and influence. The non-geek out there may grapple with the technobabble and technophilosophy of the text, but the book’s entirely unexpected plot twists will keep any reader engrossed and desperately attempting to put all of the pixelated pieces together. The intentionally jumpy narrative of the post-singularity world is intended to keep the reader perplexed yet eager to turn the page for the next revelation.

To borrow a dictum straight out of the book, this editor’s opinion of whether or not everyone should read The Rapture of the Nerds: “This is mandatory, not optional.”

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Editor: Lindsay Duncan

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