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Accelerando / Postsingular

Recently I've picked up two books on the singularity, that is, when (technological) advances make predictions about the future no longer possible.

The first one is Charles Stross's Accelerando (The Atrocity Archives, Halting State, definitely stuff for geeks). Stross's books sometimes leave the impression that he chose a list of buzz words from computer science and technology, and then works hard to tick them off. But still, he pulls off amazing plots and twists. His Merchant Princes series is less hilarious, but even more improbable. Accelerando seems to combine those traits, and takes you on an intergalactic journey at relativistic speed and back again. Throw in a good measure of cloning, and three generations of yourself come to a family dinner.

Rudy Rucker, Ph.D., and comp sci buff, shines with invented words and outrageous, mind-bending plots. Ever wondered what would happen if entities from another dimension would bring instantaneous wireless communication to our world, wearing the layer separating us thin? That kind of plot. Postsingular has Earth eaten up by nanomachines and spat out again in the first few pages, and then gathers up speed.

For both authors, these two stories pose the problem of predicting the by definition unpredictable, a task that is necessarily bound to fail. But hey, you're welcome to take a stab at it! Given their tendency to colourful plots and inventions, having to do it at an exponential rate takes its toll on the reader. While I enjoy their stimulating ideas, at some point digesting their concoction turns into quite a bit of work. Fortunately a much more pleasant one than having to do it for completeness.

Both books are probably not the best ones to start with, if you're not already a fan of Stross and Rucker. Both have antics beyond SciFi: Stross is an avid blogger with actually interesting stuff; Rucker turned painter Pieter Bruegel's life into fiction and designed computer programs.

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