The real world is unbearable to madcap inventor Harry Gerber, so he uses his genius to twist the laws of science and create his own tailor-made universe. Master of Space and Time combines high physics and high jinks, blurring the line between science and magic. From a voyage to a mirror-image world where sluglike parasites make slaves of humanity, to trees and bushes that grow fries and pork chops, to a rain of fish, author Rudy Rucker—two-time winner of the Philip K. Dick Award—takes readers on the ultimate joyride. But once the gluons at the core of Harry's creation run out ... disaster looms for Harry and his friends.
Rudolf von Bitter Rucker is an American mathematician, computer scientist, science fiction author, and one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre. He is best known for his Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which won Philip K. Dick awards. Presently, Rudy Rucker edits the science fiction webzine Flurb.
Rucker's best novel? Wonderfully bizarre. 5+ stars
"Master of Space & Time" (1985) is still my favorite Rucker novel -- in which the tale of three wishes granted is explored via quantum mechanics, with wonderfully bizarre results. The apotheosis of Harry Gerber... I've read MoS&T at least three times over the years, & laughed aloud each time. Who knows what someone else's taste in humor might be, but I've given away a number of copies of MoS&T over the years, and never heard a complaint. Give it a shot.
A surrealistic, slapstick journey through time and space. A madcap mix of Lewis Carroll, physics, scif b-movies and Japanese monster movies, Vonnegut, Looney Tunes, and a fairy tale. The “heroes” fight off mind controlling slugs, giant lizards, enter other dimensions, create the universe, change sex, grant wishes, start religions, solve world hunger, and go to jail. Sadly Gondry and Dan Clowse will not be adapting this for the big screen as their sensibilities would translated this well. Along with Di Fillipo, I see Rucker as the court jester of the cyperpunks. To resort to clichés, my mind is thoroughly blown and I laughed my ass off the whole way through.
This book was recommended to me by my good friend Jim, who said it was his favorite novel of all time. While I'm not sure it's my favorite novel of all time, it definitely has lots of the marks of something that could easily be a person's favorite book.
The back of the book talks about Rucker making his living as a mathematician, and I think this comes across in the tone and perspective of the book. Very little in this book is seems to be treated as "natural" or "organic" including the characters' motivations and emotions. The tone throughout, even at the heights of the book's climax, is that of detached curiosity and slight amusement. And throughout the adventure you can see how much the author loves analyzing absolutely everything: the construction of the universe, human sexuality and the nature of sexual desires, gender theory, subconscious human desires, particle physics, chaos theory, and on and on. I won't really give a plot summary, because as one of the blurbs on the cover says, "almost anything I tell you will ruin the surprise" but it's pretty interesting, and the whole book is a super-quick read. I finished it in three days, and it usually takes me much longer to get through books that aren't graphic novels or audiobooks.
Highly recommended for those who like their sci-fi to work more as "speculative fiction", as a way to try to think about the world around us in new ways, than as a character drama or space opera.
Sota l’aparença d’una bogeria irracional hi ha una història de multiversos, viatges en el temps i desafiaments a la realitat blindada a tota lògica... sense perdre un gram de gamberrisme. Sí: és un Rick i Morty molt abans que s’inventessin Rick i Morty. La faula dels tres desitjos de la llàntia meravellosa aplicada a la hard sci-fi, on tot és possible i tot hi té cabuda. La novel·la va de menys a més i m’ho he passat pipa.
This was a completely satsifying light and entertaining read infused with some heavy science bits that i personally, really enjoyed. There is no waiting for the action to happen it's right there in the 1st few pages.
This novel reminded me of Steve Aylett's work but it is considerably more fluid with loads less wandering in the plot. Classified as science fiction,this book felt equally bizzaro with its numerous oddities and social satire. It was pleasantly bizzare without trying too hard to be.
Written in '84 the novel takes place sometime after '98 and the U.S is in a depression,(pretty good call). There are 2 great religions- The First Church of Scientific Mysticism and Gary Herberism. Time travel, a godzilla-like attack, porkchop and tater trees, sex change and so much more! I really enjoyed this book and look forward to my next chance to read something from Rucker
Joe Fletcher’s business gets back on its feet when an infinite number of insect-sized versions of his former business partner Harry Gerber appear floating above the dashboard of his car. Harry (who’s just back from the future) want Joe to encourage him to build a “blunzer,” the machine that will allow him to travel in time and bend the laws of physics to his will, in other words, to become the master of space and time. He also needs Joe to lend him the money to buy the equipment and the very expensive gluons needed for fuel. But, Joe can be assured that the investment is safe, because the fact that all the tiny Harrys are there proves that the blunzer works!
Professor Rucker weaves Joe and Harry’s wild ride through space-time from equal parts of modern particle physics, cosmology, and the folktale of the person given three wishes as a magic boon. And he’s stuffed it full of mind bending paradoxes and LOL science-fiction clichés. He’s also given it the slapstick pacing of a Keystone Cops film. It’s quite a trip.
Rucker, Rudy. Masters of Space and Time. 1984. Running P, 2005. Five years before Bill and Ted began their excellent and bogus Hollywood film adventures in time, Rudy Rucker, quondam mathematician and computer scientist, sent two grown men and their wives and girlfriends on a romp through multiple worlds and quantum dimensions. Their adventures have the same madcap slacker appeal, with the delightful addition that the author and his characters both seem to know what they are talking about most of the time, at least enough to make us suspend disbelief for even the most outrageous events, quantum and otherwise. It was fun to read it again.
If you like Philip K. Dick, you need to give Rudy Rucker a try. This comparison gets made a lot, which is not surprising given that he won the first ever PKD award, but it's still worth saying for those unfamiliar with Rucker. Everything I've read by him so far has been just so much mind-warping fun I can't even say.
Published in 1984, this book somehow feels like golden age sci-fi from the 1950s that's been soaked in psychedelia and polished up cyberpunk-style. I'm always on the lookout for this sort of thing, and this one definitely goes on my short list of must-read dreampunk classics.
Lightning-fast, surreal, goofy, and entertaining, Master of Time and Space is one of the fastest reads I've had in recent memory. It's weird and it's funny, and though it's light and breezy, it's far from simple -- or simplistic. A lot happens in this bonkers-ass adventure, and some of it's even kinda deep and philosophical. Still, though, plenty of it is break-neck weirdness and gender swaps.
Okay, I may have said too much. Before I spoil anything, I'll stop here.
So, I found this book in a stack of paperbacks I had bought on a close-out sale years and years ago. For some reason, I decided to read it. The story is like a carnival ride. Quirky. Inane. I suspect Rucker spent way too much of his adolescence watching Monte Python.
A quick read. Rucker's imagination knows few bounds. His knowledge of math and physics adds legitimacy to the madness. He also might have explained why when given a 3-wish scenario, one of the wishes can't be for more wishes.
Rucker's wish fable is as weird as you'd expect, including a cameo from himself. Adding just enough physics to sound 'science-y', we get a wild ride exploring the old saw "be careful what you wish for".
review of Rudy Rucker's Master of Space and Time by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 9, 2015
Reading Rudy Rucker is like reading about a Ron Goulart wisecracking dysfunctional robot dropped into a bunch of stoners in Flatland. The 1st chapter is entitled "This Is the Name of This Chapter" - the type of self-reflexivity loved by me &, seemingly, by many mathematicians. Rucker was a professor of mathematics & computer science. His novels usually plunge right into the comedic weirdness & this one's no exception:
"Harry Gerber was sitting on my steering wheel. He was two inches tall. A much smaller version of him was perched on the gearshift as well. And the tiny dots darting around on my dashboard—something told me they were a flock of yet tinier Harrys. All of them wore gray polyester suits, white shirts, and no neckties. Oh, my. Who else but Harry?" - p 3
Rucker has won the Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original SF book twice. I can certainly understand why. Rucker's writing reminds me a bit of Dick's but even more it reminds me of Goulart's. Unlike Goulart, tho, there's usually something at least a little scientific to think about:
"Cybernetics. That was a word Harry and I had always laughed about. Nobody had any idea what it means, it's just some crazy term that Norbert Wiener made up." - p 13
Really? Paul Pangaro has this to say:
"What does the word “cybernetics” mean?
"“Cybernetics” comes from a Greek word meaning “the art of steering”.
"Cybernetics is about having a goal and taking action to achieve that goal.
"Knowing whether you have reached your goal (or at least are getting closer to it) requires “feedback”, a concept that comes from cybernetics.
"From the Greek, “cybernetics” evolved into Latin as “governor”. Draw your own conclusions.
"When did cybernetics begin?
"Cybernetics as a process operating in nature has been around for a long time.
"Cybernetics as a concept in society has been around at least since Plato used it to refer to government.
"In modern times, the term became widespread because Norbert Wiener wrote a book called “Cybernetics” in 1948. His sub-title was “control and communication in the animal and machine”. This was important because it connects control (a.k.a., actions taken in hope of achieving goals) with communication (a.k.a., connection and information flow between the actor and the environment). So, Wiener is pointing out that effective action requires communication.
"Wiener’s sub-title also states that both animals (biological systems) and machines (non-biological or “artificial” systems) can operate according to cybernetic principles. This was an explicit recognition that both living and non-living systems can have purpose. A scary idea in 1948." - http://www.pangaro.com/definition-cyb...
I recently reviewed Robert Heinlein's SF novel Space Cadet (1948) ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ). In the review, I neglected to touch on how the term "space cadet", used by Heinlein to mean a person studying to become an astronaut, became a derogatory term for 'air-head' - probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The implication is usually that a person is a space cadet b/c they're 'spaced-out' from consciousness-expanding drug use. "Who's this. Who do you think it is, space cadet?" (p 14) In this case, the discombobulating factor is time-travel.
The novel takes place in a near-future that's a minor variation on the near-past. Potentially familiar scenes for the reader are tweaked slightly: "There was a bus station too, and next to it was place called the Terminal Bar. Some terminal-type guys gimped past in the wet, one of them an obvious wire-head. He was so far gone that he used a mechanical walker. You could see the bulge of his stim-unit under his overcoat." (p 15) There's really no need to explain such neologisms, it's easy enuf to imagine a person w/ wires going directly to their brain that a stimulation device wd send signals to to make them high. I'm reminded of the story (is it true? - or an urban legend?) of research done on monkeys w/ electrodes attached to their brain to stimulate orgasms by the touch of a joy-stick (how aptly named in this instance). The story goes that the monkeys stimulated themselves to death. Shades of Jose M. Delgado's Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society.
Harry's surprising appearance in multiples in multiple sizes has an explanation provided early on that gives Rucker an excuse for fun:
""So Fred Hoyle was right," Harry exclaimed. "Everything is shrinking!"
""Nothing's shrinking, Harry. I'm the same size every day."
""That's what you think. But your house shrinks, your car shrinks, your wife shrinks—everything in the universe is shrinking at the same rate. That's why the distant galaxies keep seeming farther away. I've always wondered how to test it. But now—"
""Time travel!" I exclaimed. "I get it. If everything's smaller now than it was yesterday, then if I jump back through time to yesterday, I'm much smaller than the people there."" - p 18
Wonderful, Rucker really knows how to milk a premise.
"Sir Fred Hoyle was an English astronomer and cosmologist, primarily remembered today for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis, and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters, such as his rejection of the Big Bang theory in favour of a steady state universe and the panspermia theory of the origin of life on earth. He is considered one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of the second half of the 20th Century." - http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/s...
A side-note here is that when I look up something online it's sometimes interesting to read takes on it from radically different philosophical perspectives. The above is from a scientific website & the below is from a religious one trying to co-opt science:
"Big bang critic dies (Fred Hoyle)
"by Greg Demme and Jonathan Sarfati
"Sir Fred Hoyle, the man who coined the term ‘big bang,’ died on Monday, 20 August 2001, from complications following a severe stroke.
"Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1915, Hoyle was one of Britain’s best-known mathematicians and astronomers in the last half of the 20th century. He spent decades searching for answers to questions of the origins of life and the origin and age of the universe. In the 1940s, he, along with Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold, proposed the ‘steady state’ theory, a belief that the universe had no beginning or end, but always existed and would continue to exist.
"All these men were strong humanists, so they rejected any theory that seemed to teach a beginning for the universe, because that would point to a Beginner—see the discussion in ["]If God created the universe, then who created God?["] Their bias was so strong that they were even prepared to violate the fundamental Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy, which states that mass/energy in the universe can neither be created nor destroyed. Of course, this fundamental law is consistent with Genesis—God’s creation of the space-time universe was finished after six days. But the Steady State Theory posits a continual spontaneous appearance of hydrogen atoms from nothing.
"But because the evidence of the rapid expansion of the universe exceeded the predictions of Hoyle’s theory, and because of the reluctance to believe that fundamental laws were violated, many astronomers began to postulate that an explosion of highly dense matter was the beginning of all space and time. In his 1950 BBC radio series, The Nature of the Universe, Hoyle mockingly called this idea the ‘big bang,’ considering it preposterous. Yet the theory—and the derisive term—have become mainstream, not only in astronomy but in society as well." - http://creation.com/big-bang-critic-d...
Interesting, huh? It seems that the Big Bang Theory is embraced by religious people as evidence of a beginner, of God. That wd've never occurred to me. I find this interesting too: "All these men were strong humanists, so they rejected any theory that seemed to teach a beginning for the universe, because that would point to a Beginner": when I think of "humanists" I think of people who care enuf about humanity to want to, eg, end war & starvation & poverty. Here it seems that "humanist" is meant to mean 'overly human-centric'.
What I then think of is the Catholic church torturing people for postulating that the Earth isn't the center of the universe - a violation of Aristotlian teaching. Why wd that upset the Catholics? B/c humans were supposedly made in God's image &, therefore, the home of humans must be the center of the universe, etc.. Like all co-opters, the church (in this case Creation Ministries International) can twist any argument to any purpose. One century being human-centric might mean embracing the notion of Man being made in God's image, another century being human-centric might mean rejecting God.
But I digress (& use "But" at the beginning of a sentence - as do Demme and Sarfati: "But because": we must be identical! (false syllogism?)).
""Well, yes. The idea of controlling space and time does happen to be something I've been thinking about recently. The way I see it, it's simply a matter of increasing the value of Planck's constant by many orders of magnitude."" - p 19
"["]Planck's constant, you know, it's a measure of the effect that the observer has on the universe. If I can temporarily increase the value of Planck's constant in my body, then the world will look more and more like I want it to."" - pp 19-20
Like I sd, "Rucker really knows how to milk a premise." I'm reminded of Christopher Priest's The Inverted World (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ) where imagining the effect of a fairly basic, but, nonetheless profound, premise is fully 'fleshed-out'.
Reading this makes me think of the way I thought when I was in my late teens & early twenties - or, perhaps, throughout my entire life. One of my favorite things to think about was whether it wd be possible to violate seemingly inviolable 'laws of nature' by will-power or other means. In my February 2, 1981 "attempt to undermine 'reality' maintenance traps" (see a movie of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ababb... ) I tried using self-hypnosis. As I explain on my "Mere Outline" website: "While embedded between 2 floors of a building I listened to a "hypnotic" tape that I'd made which attempted to convince me that I could walk thru walls & perform other extraordinary defiances of "consensus reality"." ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut... )
I wasn't expecting the only partially hoped-for results but I liked imagining the possibilities. It seems to me that Rucker's thinking along similar lines. For that matter, so are ceremonial magicians. Evoking Planck's constant & gluons appeals to me more than invoking spirits does but to an outsider w/o knowledge of or vested interest in either there might not be that much of a difference. Shades of alchemy.
Rucker seems to have a taste for pop culture wch is probably part of why his novels appear to be 'successful':
"a terrarium with a mean-looking little lizard in it. I squatted down to get a better look at the lizard. He was like a miniature Godzilla, with powerful rear legs and a long toothy jaw. He looked as if he'd been in a fight recently, and seemed to be in some pain." - p 16
I wonder what religious people make of the name "Godzilla"? Is it generally perceived as blasphemy? Backwards masking in Japanese monster movies!
""One thing about time travel," said Harry musingly. "There probably has to be a counterweight. Action equals reaction, you know.""
""If you jump an animal forward, it'll seem real big," I reminded Harry.
""That's right. Every object in the universe is shrinking, so if something jumps forward a few days it seems enormous. Did you ever see any Godzilla movies, Fletch? With the giant lizard?"" - pp 30-31
"Just a few hundred meters off was a huge predatory lizard" - p 32
"meters"! Rucker's an American writer. This bk having been written in 1984, there might've been more of a mvmt to make all common-use measurements more recognizably base-10.
""Say, Fletch. You're in time for lunch. Antie's stewing some chicken and my pet lizard, Zeke. He got some wounds and today he died." Harry gave me one of his wet, unfocused smiles.
""The lizard!" I yelped. "I saw him in your store window yesterday! Was he the—"
""That's right. Tonight, when I go back to visit you on Friday, Zeke will jump forward from Thursday to visit you on Saturday.["]" - p 43
This whole Godzilla section of the review might seem to be a spoiler but I think most readers will see this one coming from a kilometer away.
Our heros enter a mirror-world:
""It's your mirror self," said Sondra. "Your other nature. You've objectified the repressed side of your personality so as to do battle with it. How Jungian!"" - p 72
I don't know whether "Jungian" is the appropriate term here or not but it occurs to me that Rucker might be making a joke off of the more common expression: "Freudian". Jung & Freud weren't exactly left-right reversals of each other but Rucker's playing fast & loose here.
Rucker's very playful: he likes to imagine things, give them a loose justification w/in the basic framework of the novel, & then let 'em loose (Tou louse?):
""They won't be mad at you once they find out about the porkchop bushes and the fritter trees," said Nancy soothingly.
""The government won't like free food. What about all the people who just work to get enough to eat? People with menial, subsistence-level jobs. Those people will drop out of the work force if they got some of our seeds."" - p 107
That's about as close to getting political as I can remember Rucker ever getting. All in all, I find Rucker quite funny:
"The guy was a real square. He had long, greasy gray hair and a beard. A microcomputer in the pouch of his sweatshirt. And—ughBeatles music playing softly on his radio." - p 136
Things change. In the 1960s when I 1st started growing my hair long in the area where I lived it meant that I was taking the risk of being threatened or harmed by 'jocks'. By the 1970s the jocks had long hair. In Master of Space and Time, Fletch changes from a man to a woman. Then s/he has a conversation w/ another woman:
""You have to think about the genes," I said. I'd heard a theory about this. "Basically all a person wants is to perpetuate his or her genes. The best strategy for men is to have lots of children with lots of different women. The best strategy for women is have children and make sure the father stays around to help take care of them."
""Ha!" snapped the woman next to me. "Some man must have told you that. All a person wants is to perpetuate their genes. Boy, is that stupid."" - pp 164-165
For me, it's somewhat consistent w/ what I call "B.O.D.", Biological OverDrive. I do think that waaay, dowwwn, innn-side (sung like Led Zeppelin) our primary biological goal is to keep the old DNA perpetuating. Hence sex is very pleasurable. But I don't see why the drive might not include women wanting to have children w/ multiple men. Unfortunately?, practical matters intervene. Over. & over.
For people in the USA, at least, there's a new dating system: pre-9/11 & post-9/11. This bk is pre-9/11:
""Would you take me flying with you now? It's dark and no one will see us. We could fly over to the World Trade Center and back."" - p 169
Of course, there're other WTCs than the twin towers in NYC - there's a single tower one in BalTimOre. That's not mentioned in the relevant Wikipedia article. Once again, BalTimOre is too MORLOCK to be on the map. Long Beach & Portland make it to Wikipedia. Will there now be a post-post-9/11 dating system?
Rucker even manages to squeeze in a good paradox:
"["]A genie promises a man that he can have exactly one wish come true. Now, what if the man's one wish is that he gets all the wishes he wants?"
""He willl get all the wishes he wannts."
""But remember! An initial condition is that he is allowed to have only one wish."
""I ssseee. So he willl get nno wishes."
""But he was supposed to get one wish."
""Butt perhaps the mann's rreal wish was that he get nno wishes at all. He does gett his wissh."
"But then he doesn't."" - p 189
Ah, logic! Gotta love it!
All in all, this was a totally fun read. I hear-tell that Rucker writes math bks too. Maybe I shd read one of those some day.