An entertaining book but also something of a struggle to read, mainly because it is about 500 pages longer than it needs to be. It has some charming cAn entertaining book but also something of a struggle to read, mainly because it is about 500 pages longer than it needs to be. It has some charming characters who are genuinely interesting but the only action they really get is running from one danger to the next. Chase sequences can go on for pages and pages and become very tedious, especially since they very rarely end with the character having more information than they started out with. And they all get caught and face imminent death about 10 times each - any sense of tension in these situations is eventually lost because they are so numerous. You would think that the "evil cabal" the main characters are fighting against would just shoot them in the head after they continue to interrupt proceedings. But no, the cabal continually leave the job to someone else and act surprised when the main characters pop back up later on.
The trouble with this book isn't the plot or the characters or the ideas. They are all good. The trouble is that none of them are really used. The conspiracy doesn't amount to much of anything, it is never explained what exactly the "process" or the glass books are and no one learns much of anything about each other or themselves. Many, many characters are introduced to make things seem complicated but it is really all surface. Ultimately, nothing really happens. Yes, the characters go through a lot - they are continually running down streets, jumping onto trains, getting lost in mansions and being poisoned, knocked out and held prisoner - but they never gain a thing from their efforts. Perhaps this is because the author is withholding information for the sequel? But without any sort of payoff at all it just feels like you've read 700 pages of empty chasing.
It's a shame really because there is a lot of good ideas in here. They are just obscured beneath hundreds of pages of padding....more
Rucker's ideas are great...well thought out, imaginative and compelling. Over the course of the 4 books Rucker tells a story of technology rushing forRucker's ideas are great...well thought out, imaginative and compelling. Over the course of the 4 books Rucker tells a story of technology rushing forward and pushing at the intellectual event horizon. Change happens fast and becomes more fantastic and more removed from human hands as the novels go on. It is a bit of a slow start in the first and second books but by the third I was hooked and in the fourth I was anticipating the singularity. I don't want to give away spoilers for the book so I won't go into detail but it felt almost as if Rucker lost his nerve at the end of the fourth book and ended on a whimper. Either that or perhaps he had written himself into a corner and couldn't imagine a way out. It was a shame because the four novels felt like they were leading up to a point that never happened. I felt disappointed when I had finished and it soured my enjoyment of the work somewhat.
Unfortunately, as great as Rucker's ideas are his characters leave a lot to be desired. Rucker seems to be very cynical about humans (and by extension...artificial and alien personalities). His characters are selfish, short-sighted and consistently see other beings as objects or means to an end. They exist in a cloud of sex and drugs and care very little for anyone other than themselves. It is hard to tell if Rucker writes this way because he simply believes that intelligent beings can never rise above base needs and emotions or if he thought they would be more interesting characters through which to tell his story. Either way, a bit of variety would have been nice, or some respite in the shape of a character with an ounce of nobility or thought. Personally, I felt it was harder to care about what happended when everyone was so damned unlikeable.
Rucker's ideas about technology, evolution and change are very astute and imaginative. They are the core of The Ware Tetralogy. If you are a big fan of cyberpunk and science fiction I would recommend this book for that alone. If not, I'd give it a miss. ...more