Scott's Reviews > Accelerando

Accelerando by Charles Stross
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's review
Oct 17, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: sci-fi
Read in November, 2009

OK, let's start with the fact that the book jacket compared Charles Stross's writing with William Gibson and Neal Stephenson at their best.

As a reader who has a serious crush on Stephenson's writing, I instantly had an expectation was set up in my mind, as you can imagine.

However, this novel was thoroughly disappointing. I like hard SF and cyberpunk that explores social mores and the impacts of technology and science upon society. And can do so with humor (or irony). The science was so outlandishly bad (e.g. generating sufficient power to run manufacturing plants on a satellite of Jupiter by wrapping conductors around the satellite, across the poles, to create a conducting loop to move through Jupiter's magnetic field), and the belief in the Singularity so without skepticism, that I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid at about page 220, and had to gut out the last half of the book without the necessary suspension of disbelief that is why I read science fiction in the first place. As the book proceeds use of science or IT concepts becomes increasingly absurd as the main characters (who are nearly impossible to feel any sympathy for) are rescued, Deus ex Machina style, from ridiculous crises with unexplored implications that abuse the reader's time and effort placed in attempting to understand what has been written.

The ability to dash out clever metaphors and create a story around a compelling idea (like the Singularity) does not guarantee that the story will be good. Stross has moments of true humor and irony, but the characters are leaden and locked in epoch-long neuroses that persist whether the character is in "meatspace" or has re-instantiated itself as an orangutan or a flock of passenger pigeons (I'm not making this up). There is also a level of omniscience and confidence in the main characters that suggests they know everything that has happened and will happen. While this may be a device to make the post-humans off-putting to us as human beings, part of the reason to write a book is to get humans to read it, and most real humans won't soldier through a book with know-it-all characters they cannot care about, who already have figured out everything that will happen to them, and seem unbelievably bored by anything except for their family squabbles.

The middle third (from around page 200 through 300) really lacks coherence and cannot be readily followed by any but the most careful reading. And, upon careful reading, you are not rewarded. This is not Pynchon or Faulkner; this is geek speak that does not connect with ideas that matter. At the point where the travellers encounter alien intelligences, the entire story completely falls apart and has to be rescued, again, from its own excesses.

I have spent too much time writing about this. If you read this review, you have been warned about what to expect in reading this book. I will not be picking up another Stross novel any time soon.
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02/21/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by H (new) - rated it 5 stars

H Hammer wow... strong words. interesting that I felt exactly the opposit. This is gibbson on steroids.


message 2: by Tom (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tom I agree with everything you wrote about this book. However, Stross can be better. Much, much better. Try picking up Singularity Sky or Halting State and see for yourself.


Boris Vidolov Imagine someone writing a book 40 years ago about today: "He pulled the phone from his pocket (???) and launched the maps app(?). The wifi spot (?) supported well the 4G connection (?), but asked for pass code and he didn't have time for it. He quickly texted(?) his girlfriend and followed the path on the screen. He managed to open the wikipedia page (?) of the neighbourhood on the phone (?)...". Stross does his best and chances are that some of the geek talk will be standard in a few years. This book is simply ahead of its time. It is 2014 now and the book describes plausable future of 2020-2024. If you read recent research on how constant access to trivia (search engine in your pocket) changes our memory patterns, you will see that his book is scary real.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Dislike review


Terje Bless I think you enumerate the book's flaws and weaknesses well, but for me it had enough redeeming features that it earned three stars.


Joanne As a serious Neal Stephenson fan myself, thanks for the heads up. I'll lower expectations considerably, consider it a sci fi romp, and perhaps later try one of his other books as another commentator suggested.


Imre Tuske great review, shitty book.


Sidhant Srikumar great book, shitty review.


Otávio Completely agree with you. The characters are built in a way that it's difficult to really feel any sympathy for them and their neuroses extend for the entire book (that stupid tantrum between Pamela and Manfred and Pamela and Amber! WTF! The whole book with this!?).
The plot is boring and shallow. I enjoy some of the scifi concepts of uploading the mind and living forever but at the end of the day it fall far from saving the book. I'm still reading it for lack of other books to read. Do you have any good suggestion?


Alper Çuğun I stopped reading after the Stephenson nonsense.


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