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The Incrementalists

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  1,178 ratings  ·  275 reviews
"Secret societies, immortality, murder mysteries and Las Vegas all in one book? Shut up and take my money."—John Scalzi

The Incrementalists—a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history,
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanAncillary Justice by Ann LeckieThe Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen LordAbaddon's Gate by James S.A. CoreyDivinity and The Python by Bonnie  Randall
2013 Speculative Fiction
37th out of 122 books — 91 voters
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Tournament of Books Longlist 2014
11th out of 93 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steven Brust
Feb 25, 2013 Steven Brust rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Yeah, so, this is the first time I've rated something I've written. It goes against every bone in my Minnesota body, but I tell myself that it's Skyler's parts I'm rating.

Several years ago, Tappan King suggested to me the idea of an immortal secret society dedicated to making the world just a little better. After I read Skyler's first two novels (and Falling, Fly; In Dreams Begin) I very much wanted to work with her. Hanging out with her one day, Tappan's idea came to mind, and we started kickin
Jan 17, 2014 Carol. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not Brust's normal fans
Let me be honest: I’m a fan of Steven Brust. I like his complex world-building, his characters and his willingness to integrate challenging issues of race and class (and occasionally gender) into his writing. Unfortunately, while I was predisposed to love The Incrementalists, it fell flat for me.

Narrative is first-person, shifting between Phil and Renee, often multiple times in the same chapter. Someone decided to use some pretty cursive typeset to head the sections with “Phil” or “Ren,” and to
Walking around in a constant state of confusion might be the best way to sum up my feelings on this tale. If this muddled state actually led me to some definitive suppositions on the universe, or put me in touch with all the answers to THE INCREMENTALISTS, or even offered me a sense of well-being, I would have been okay with my scrambled brains and possibly the head scratching as well. But that wasn’t the case here. Instead, I felt a bit exhausted after finishing this tale, like I’d been running ...more
Mar 26, 2013 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jennifer by: Steven Brust
Shelves: nook
Thoughts on The Incrementalists, free of summary, spoilers, or character names (cross-posted from my blog).

First off, this is a great book if you’re into keeping neurotic lists as though you were going to make character trading cards. There’s a strong secret history concept to it, and the way the secret society works involves ‘switches’, sense-memory triggers that can be used to influence people. (My switches would probably be miso soup, lilacs, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, and bi
Started out okay, but I found the plausibility of the plot thin. Characters accepted too much at face value and, as more folks were introduced, I had a hard time distinguishing them. Ren and Phil felt interchangeable and their romance convenient and rushed. Weird.

The plot is interesting, but left high and dry while characters run around eating pizza and drinking coffee. The idea of the Incrementalists is also pretty damned cool, but not explored enough for my satisfaction.

I kinda had to force m
As a left-brainer, my thoughts often stop me from fully enjoying stories. I don't need every little thing explained in extensive detail, but something more than vagueness. For a novel filled with symbols and analogies, my experience was less than optimal.

Logic-fail kept me from falling under The Incrementalists's spell. When even immortality sounds more believable than the concept herein, it's a sign the world-building is somewhat flawed. An incrementalist's memories can be implanted into someon
All Things Urban Fantasy
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy

THE INCREMENTALISTS novel is one of those novels I expected to pick up and immediately love. I mean, c’mon, it’s set in Vegas, involves secret societies and is co-written by the amazing Steven Brust. Needless to say my hopes were extremely high when I started this book and then they quickly came crashing down.

I freely admit that my score for this novel is partly based on the expectations I had for THE INCREMENTALISTS. Reviews are entirely subjective and
Oct 22, 2013 Karyn rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I hadn't purchased a hardcover new release in years, but the flashy cover grabbed my attention in Powell's and it jumped into my cart. The cover (with it's impressive John Scalzi quote) might have been the best part.

Biggest issues:
The book is written in the first person, which is fine, but it jumps between POV several times in a chapter. That would also be fine if it added to the story. But, since the main characters are in a passionate, lust-filled relationship and unable to leave each other's
I got to read an advance review copy of this book some time ago, and as I am drawn to books that not only defy genre, but actively buck it, The Incrementalists and I quickly became fast friends. Brust and White have created a complex and fascinating world that kept me thinking about it long after I put the book down. From a plot perspective, there's plenty here to keep you reading -- secret societies, mystery, romance, and a fascinating premise -- but it's the deeper threads and questions that s ...more
T. Edmund
The Incrementalists is in my opinion a lazy book. Two authors have clearly come up with a brilliant concept - immortal beings who 'meddlework' with us humans, ostensibly for the better, and preserve their lengthy lives by storing their memories jointly in a celestial garden and occasionally trading their psyches into a new body.

The laziness is apparent in the book lacking anything other than a great concept. The characters have little personality (despite the constant discussions about personalt
Mogsy (MMOGC)
3.5 stars. My copy of this book was an ARC I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Tor Books and NetGalley for making that happen! My recent positive experiences with the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust had made me curious about this novel, so I was looking forward to checking it out.

The concept behind The Incrementalists is a very interesting and original one, and it only gets wilder as you read more of the story. Phil and Celeste are part of a secret societ
THE INCREMENTALISTS is not an easy book to talk about. From the blurb, you get pretty much everything you need going in: secret society, two main characters, subtle magic, modern day.

What you don't get is the beauty. The way the early confusion unfolds like a night-blooming desert flower, revealing not just cleverness but compassion for the reader. You don't get the laugh-out-loud jokes and the quiet harmonies. You don't see two masterful writers using all of their art to create a work of treme

The Incrementalists was a book that I was very excited about. Its was co-written by Steven Brust whose Jhereg series was intriguing. This book however failed to capture my attention throughout.

The book has a very interesting take on immortality & human perceptions in regards to immortality. I couldn't connect with main two characters through out the story and in the end at least for me this book was something that I finished reading but didn't want to review.

This will have its fans &
When I get on with Steven Brust, we get on extremely well. Although it doesn't happen as often, when I don't get on with him, I get really, really aggravated, as happened here. (No idea how much of that was the co-author.) The book sounded very interesting, but I didn't kill it with high expectations - just couldn't understand why this group of special people was supposed to be anything other than arrogant creeps. Add to that writing that seemed designed to leave the reader following with maximu ...more
Maine Colonial
What a terrific premise, I thought, when I read the book description. A secret society--the Incrementalists--has existed for all of human history and they "meddle" with people with a goal of bettering society. Sometimes that works out well, sometimes not. Incrementalists have finite bodies, but their memories and wisdom are immortal, because they are "stubbed" into a new recruited Incrementalist.

Celeste, Phil's lover for the last 400 years, give or take, has died in her physical body and Phil ch
I need to learn not to trust the blurb, let alone the endorsement of people I admire.
What a disappointment this was...boring, muddled and with dialogues that alternate between "look how clever we are" and "sitcom with laugh-track".
We're told the characters are fighting this dangerous and possibly world-changing battle and urgency, no sense of danger, no energy at all.
The whole Incrementalist idea, this brilliant, brilliant idea is just used as a backdrop for a insta-love romance with se
I sometimes wonder if book critics know something I don’t. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times book critic. Holder of secret knowledge that permits her to appreciate the literary tomes too serious for dilettantes such as myself. Let me join you, Michiko. Take me on a spirit quest.

I wonder the same thing about authors. Authors rarely give books negative reviews. Is it because, learned as they are in the art of writing, they better understand what their fellow writers are trying to do with a particu
40000 years ago, some folks figured out how to archive memories in the collective unconscious -- up to and including their own personalities. Result: a gang of more-or-less immortals, slipping under the radar of civilization, not trying to rule the world (their hold is not so sure) but to make it suck a little less.

This is a strange, low-key book. It doesn't much resemble SF or fantasy, although it works hard to make the memory-architecture of the Incrementalists feel like an interesting "magic
The Incrementalists creates an interesting vision of a secret society of individuals who have unlocked the potential of the human mind. Not only are they able to subtly influence individuals - a process they call "meddling" - to do their bidding, but they have learned how to store and access memories remotely through The Garden... essentially a communal memory palace. Moreover, they're capable of actually cheating death by implanting the memories and personality of dead members in a new body.

Fantasy Literature
The Incrementalists is collaboration between authors Steven Brust and Skyler White. I was more familiar with White going in, having enjoyed her trippy novels and Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin. My experience with Brust’s vast catalogue was sadly limited to having read The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars many years ago while obsessively collecting the FAIRY TALE SERIES. In The Incrementalists, Brust and White team up to create a millennia-old secret society dedicated to making the world better... ...more
Apr 21, 2015 David rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hipsters
Recommended to David by: I liked some of his other books
First Person. Las Vegas. Poker. Secret Society. Immortals. Reincarnation. Insta-Love. Mind Control. Omphaloskepsis. Power Struggles. Lost Interest.
(view spoiler)
Despite some of my reservations, I can’t deny that The Incrementalists is a unique and surprising novel about the power of memory and the impact of even the smallest actions. Its occasionally breezy tone masks a spectacular amount of depth and history. When it allows that depth to shine through, The Incrementalists is at its best. I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad there are authors who still manage to surprise even their long-time fans.

Read the entire review on my site Far Beyond Reality!
Tasha Turner
So many mixed feelings on this one. Some fascinating world-building, interesting characters, even though it's more philosophical than I usually like I was drawn into the philosophical ideas. Was surprised by the explicit sex scenes and thought they were for the most part unnecessary YMMV. Some if my issues have to do with how several of the women were portrayed and how sex was used to manipulate. To say more would be giving away spoilers. So as I said very mixed feelings with parts I loved and p ...more
Steven R. McEvoy
To begin with I have loved Steven Brust's books since they first started coming out. I have read all of them more than once. But for some reason I never got around to this book, maybe it was because it was co-written by Skyler White, who at the time was unknown by me. Then I read the short story Fireworks in the Rain and before I had even finished the short story I was starting to read this book. Both the short story and the book amazed me. Incredible concept, great execution and wonderful writi ...more
Apr 30, 2014 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Altruistic conspirators
Recommended to Alan by: bOINGbOING, inter alia
You should, in general, be suspicious of collaborations between a Big Name Author and a much smaller fish—they usually portend a cynical franchise operation or a once-competent elder statesman who's no longer quite up to writing alone, or both. And Steven Brust has been a big name in sf for a long time, though I'm not sure how widely known he is outside the genre, whereas I must admit I'd never even heard of Skyler White before this collaboration. But in this case... don't fear the combination. ...more
Interesting concept, strong start- weak finish...
Jan 28, 2014 Jon rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Martin
This wasn't the book I wanted it to be.

It seemed to start out as a book about a secret society of immortal-ish people who "meddle" in human affairs to make things slightly better. I liked the idea of an Illuminati-lite, and I was willing to set aside the fact that I would have found it more interesting if they actually were immortal, rather than having a weird process of essentially taking over new hosts with old memories when they die.

But the whole process of how the memories are passed forward
The idea, of course, is brilliant: that there are people who "meddle" in the lives of others to make the world incrementally better over time. This would have been a fantastic book if more time had been spent exploring THAT actually happening out in the world.

Instead, this first story set in this world is about an Incrementalist meddling with other Incrementalists without anyone catching on till now. The story is told in two alternating main character POVs, and if I wasn't paying close attention
Althea Ann
Found an advance copy of this on the ‘free’ shelf at work, and was pretty enthused – I’ve read Brust before, and found his books to be good fun.

However, this one didn’t do it for me. The premise is engaging: an ancient secret society has knowledge of the technique of transferring memories from one body to another (as well as storing information in a kind of mental ‘cloud’ internet). The society is devoted to using their experience and knowledge to become adept at psychological manipulation, whi
I really liked the idea behind this Burst novel. A select group of people live eternally. They accomplish this by having another member of the group infuse the deceased member's personality into a new person. The purpose of this group is to effect slow gradual changes to make the world a better place.

However in this novel the wheels have come off. A member of the group Celeste has died. Her lover through many hundreds of years choses a new host for her personality. Unfortunately, he and the oth
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Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers' group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, Nate Bucklin, Kara Dalkey, and Patricia Wrede, and also belongs to the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.

(Photo by David Dyer-Bennet)
More about Steven Brust...
Jhereg (Vlad Taltos, #1) Yendi (Vlad Taltos, #2) Taltos (Vlad Taltos, #4) Phoenix (Vlad Taltos, #5) Dragon (Vlad Taltos, #8)

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