September 15, 2006
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Accelerando

by Charles Stross

If The Merchant Princes is Stross's Amber, this is his response to Clifford Simak's City. More broadly, Stross is recreating old themes and visions of the future, but approaching them in light of what we learned from Gibson, from cyberpunk generally, and from the computer age.

More than any other book I've read in ages, this volume sent me back to the summer lawns of Cornell's quad, where I once spent a summer reading Heinlein and Harlan Ellison, Simak and Asimov in afternoons borrowed from Sienko and Plane..

Accelerando follows four generations of a family (and their friends, habitats, and pets: this world is filled with things that think) across the Singularity and into a distant future where the descendants of humanity have become incomprehensible computational agents. As a story, it's strongest in the early years. The first story, "Lobsters", is the most interesting vision of ubiquitous computing I've seen, and is also an able and interesting defense of extreme Open Source ideology.

Tales of the very far future are always a problem, because it's very hard to find a story in a world where the actors are so smart that they're incomprehensible. "Elector" has its moments, to be sure -- especially a political campaign conducted by forking millions of computational copies of the candidate, so each copy can sit down for a chat with each individual voter. And the final story, "Survivor", is a wonderfully twisty conclusion.