The Rapture of the Nerds is the first Novel-length collaboration between Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross after several short stories written together. They say that they enjoy themselves doing so, and the results strongly supports that notion...
The subtitle for the book is A Tale of the Singularity, Posthumanity, and Awkward Social Situations.
Well, the Singularity has been and gone 46 years ago, and the inner Solar System consists of post-singularity swarming densethinker clades, running in Dyson Spheres of smart matter as part of a Matryoshka Brain. Except for Earth, and the lighthouse-like beam of light from the Sun towards it (what a waste of matter and energy!).
Posthumanity mainly lives in the cloud, with the exception of some technology refuseniks like Huw, our main protagonist, and the remains of the US in South Carolina which read like a MacLeod motif (think America Offline, with added Religion):
presented with their opportunity in the aftermath of the Geek Rapture, they are happy like evangelical pigs in shit – plenty to rail against, plenty of fossil fuel, plenty of firearms. What more could they possibly need?
The Fallen Baptist Congregations and their warped belief systems and fall-back into proto-medieval habits is all too familiar and believable. Yes, the authors poke fun at it, but it's scary nevertheless...
Oh, and the Social Situations. Yes, there are, but I did not find them as awkward and cringe-worthy as they could have been. Phew...
The story kicks off with Huw coming round the morning after a party, to find the girls he was after all night long now being a guy (plasticity of gender: a classic Stross trope...), and then being invited for Tech Jury Duty. You see, some script kiddies (literally – they are brain-enhanced 2year-olds) have downloaded something from the uploaded, transcended cloud, and you never know if it's a present, a weapon, some general grey goo, or something completely ineffable. That's what Tech Jury is there for – to defend the Earth from the spam of the post-singularity patent office. In Tripoli.
She might actually be a communicant, he realises in absolute horror. She might actually have a Facebook account! She's mad enough... These days, tales of what Facebook did with its users during the singularity are commonly used to scare naughty children in Wales.
The story contains loads of Stross-style geekery and puns, with surprisingly little of the standard Doctorow-style political message being rammed down our collective throats. Or is it done very subtly?
The cover looks a bit throw-away, but Cory told me, when I asked, that the binary code on it (I don't think you can see that on the thumbnail here) is actually the beginning of the book. Given that the code is in concentric circles I did not check, but took his word for this; feel free to have a go yourself...
The geekery is fun, but can become wearing if deployed at length, or, as both authors are sometimes wont to, laid on too thickly.
It's, especially for the first half, a rather action packed-script with more U-turns and reversals than a Tory government in full swing - never mind that this descended rather quickly into 'caper' if not full-blown 'farce' territory.
What is the plural noun for punning pranksters? Some people had seriously too much fun writing this... now go get the book, and have some fun of your own!
More Cory Doctorow
More Charles Stross
Title: The Rapture of the Nerds
Author: Cory Doctorow
Author: Charles Stross
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Titan Books
Publisher URL: http://www.titanbooks.com
Publication Date: April 2013
Review Date: 130602
ISBN: 978 17811 67 441
Price: UKP 7.99