An interesting little mundane science fiction parable that awkwardly straddles the line between Young Adult novel and philosophical diatribe. The beasAn interesting little mundane science fiction parable that awkwardly straddles the line between Young Adult novel and philosophical diatribe. The beast with nine billion feet is a profoundly south asian glance at an edge-of-transhuman future. Despite being written from two young viewpoints that practically beg for a young adult audience the book raises some important questions about the rights of man to meddle with genetics as well as the implications of such meddling at both a personal and societal level. The prose is elegantly naive and dashed with teenager incertitudes and parkour and the alternating viewpoints of the two main characters manage to present a well rounded and believable 'five minutes in the future' world. My only problem with the Beast with Nine billion feet would be the very thing that initially drew me into buying it: its unapologetic 'Indian-ness'. I'm a big fan of south-Asian culture but the overall tone and language of the book marked it as an overall domestic market aimed title, that is, a future parable that would be easy for a native Indian to picture. For a foreigner the short descriptions and summary explanations of several storybuilding elements taken for granted by a native can leave a reader unfamiliar with Indian intricacies with less than the whole picture. In any case this was more of an observation rather than an annoyance on my part. An engaging, at times a bit challenging read, the Beast is a story of biotech, language and the bounds of what it means to be human and, indeed, alive. Very much recommended....more
Ready player one is a near future story with a near past basis. It's cover description sums it up real good: It's the Matrix (or Second Life) meets ChReady player one is a near future story with a near past basis. It's cover description sums it up real good: It's the Matrix (or Second Life) meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a severe amount of nerdness seasoned in. The premise seems believable: It's the near future and the earth is in bad shape therefore everybody escapes to the OASIS, a VR video-game that has become a significant slice of the world economy. Kids go to school in the OASIS, businesses sell things and people develop relationships. This world, created by a reclusive 80s pop-culture obsessed billionaire is thrown into chaos when said billionaire dies and creates the mother of all easter egg hunts, the winner becoming sole inheritor of all his billions. As the man was severely obsessed with all things 80 and geek so too become the millions of people searching for clues amongst his obsessions. This is the explanation that Ready Player One uses to justify its unashamedly retro focus, and while it is a little (read: a lot) stretched it nonetheless manages to pull it off without breaking suspension of disbelief too many times.
The book tackles many common nowadays themes like escapism, anonymity and its repercussions and the slow commercialisation of free online environments (though personified by a cartoonishly evil corporation with hilariously stupid business practices). It tries to be a wish-fulfillment fantasy for this generation of geeks set two generations from now and to some extent succeeds but there are some things that could have been done significantly better. The POV character is a Marty-Stu-ish perpetually poor yet noble geek who wants to find the easter egg in order to become famous and save the internets. His friends and enemies are one dimensional: the noble samurai-obsessed japanese otaku, the sidekick, the love interest and of course the evil, corporate drones that all have identical avatars apart from their ID numbers. At some point this all became extremely annoying but the seasoning of geek trivia kept it bearable.
Long story short, the book has an interesting premise and it is worth reading but so much more could have been done with it. Hopefully the sequel will be better......more
A vividly post-modern near-future rant on a plethora of subjects. Stross weaves a spider's web of plot lines to build his narrative, intersecting throA vividly post-modern near-future rant on a plethora of subjects. Stross weaves a spider's web of plot lines to build his narrative, intersecting through grimy pubs, bunkers in breakaway central Asian republics and high-tech augmented reality police stations. The characters are compelling and well constructed, be they cops or psychotic criminal-CEOs. The second person narrative is oddly effective, I would have not expected it to work had I not just read this book. The setting... Well it has been said that sci-fi presents to us an eerie challenge, that it either shows us the best or worst futures that we can imagine. Rule 34 oddly hits in the middle . It is undoubtedly way to generous with the tech and the willingness of people to accept drastic changes in policing and everyday life but it doesn't presume to indirectly lecture us on what we should do. Agreed, it delves into government regulation and imposing 'good citizenship' rules on banks and corporations but it doesn't do this in such an in-your-face manner as, say a near-future author like Brunner. Instead it uses it's background pieces as just dat, elements to help frame a story about illegal 3d printing, AIs and murder. My only direct criticism of the book would be its abuse of the disjointed narrative structure that it is built around. Sometimes it feels as if you're reading novellettes instead of a novel and the importance of some characters becomes obvious only in the end. I still don't understand what the purpose of the Eurocop was in this book. Maybe I'm dense. I could also raise a point about how difficult it became at some points to follow the cognitive computer science stuff... I felt as if I was reading Foucault. It didn't bother me but it might have bothered others...
All in all this was a good read. It's nice to see a near future cyber-thriller that is more Goatse than Neuromancer (reflecting the state of the internets today, n'est ce pas?), with decidedly modern archetypes for characters ( the single working, "heterosexually challenged" , to use the book's own term, career woman rather than the haxxorz with implanted pit-bull teeth for instance) and a relatable setting (Scotland as opposed to the Sprawl). Read it, folks....more