Science fiction books have taken me to places in the future, to an earth years from now, to distant galaxies with alien life. Cory Doctorow has done the same in his past novels, such as Makers where Doctorow imagines a world where startups, that are innovative in technology, are key to the world’s economy. Or Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town where Alan helps start an open-wifi movement across Toronto.
With Rapture of the Nerds, collaboration between Doctorow and Charles Stross (author of Rule 34), the what-ifs of science fiction take a leap into religion. According to Cory Doctorow, during am Authors@Google talk, the novel imagines what he calls a “Progressive Apocalypse”. To make more sense, the title is self-explanatory to an extent.
The “Rapture” of the novel is the uploading of all the computer and science specialists, the “Nerds”, into a supercomputer called “The Singularity”.
To make this concept easier to understand, the story follows technophobic Welshman Huw as, he does his best to survive daily life in a futuristic society. This becomes apparent when he heads to Tech Jury service in Libya, trying his best to ignore a state-funded, AI equipped teapot and hiding a biohazard trefoil tattoo from fellow jurors.
While the Singularity isn’t introduced until later in the book, the future conceived by Doctorow and Stross makes it interesting enough to keep reading. However, if you’re not familiar with technological jargon, you may find yourself lost wondering about the microprocessors on Huw’s bicycle.
Aside from the jargon, the book’s writing has a sense of humor about some of Huw’s many situations. It’s as if the writers are sympathizing with his ordeals as Tech Jury Service and ultimately within the Singularity itself.
What makes the book worthwhile, and it’s universe easier to navigate through, is the fact that Huw is mostly confused and agitated by the new technological trends in his universe. While I may have a hard time understanding some of the features of self-changing bathrooms, I can be reassured that I’m not alone.
Should you read this? If you’re into Doctorow, Stross, or abstract technological concepts, then yes. If not, then you may want to be careful, or just find a less overwhelming future to read about.
Rapture of the Nerds is available online, at bookstores, and also for free under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license from the book’s official website at http://www.craphound.com/rotn/.