03 Januari 2014


This is what the poor guy who dwelled into my purchases on Amazon thinks:
It couldn't possibly be Amazon's algorithm right? A piece
of software couldn't possibly be that smart, right? RIGHT?

Anyhoo... since Rule 34 is a (loose) sequel of Halting State, I tried the latter first and it was a bit... traumatic. I thought even though I'm not a gamer, I was geek enough to understand all the technobabble and futuristic gadgetry and reality 2.0 but oh was I wrong. I barely caught up with the story. That's why I left a few other Charles Stross untouched for a while.

But then I was already on two-out-of-three Angel X marathon, too lazy to continue with A Brief History of Time, and Bedlam (also an inside-a-video-game sci-fi) was still at $12.36 so I thought, why don't give Charles Stross another chance. So I opened Rule 34 and started reading.

And I kinda like it. Maybe it's an easier read than Halting State or maybe because I was already a bit familiar with the geek talks or maybe because it didn't actually take place inside a video game. A series of murders took place simultaneously worldwide, and the eerie possibility is that the murderer is some kind of a bot going crazy, HAL 9000 style. Inspector Liz Kavanaugh had to catch the culprit while dealing with an arse of a boss, a politico Europol colleague, a petty criminal that accidentally linked to an organized crime, an on-again-off-again girlfriend, and the darkest side of people's imagination. I'm not saying I understood all of them (guess a second reading is necessary), but in trying to understand it I kept turning the pages (figuratively, kept pressing the next page button doesn't sound as poetic).

Near-future is interesting because part of it is already here. I think what Stross trying to say was another version of technology as a double-edged sword. It's not the technology, it's the people. 1984 isn't about the telescreens, it's about Big Brother. An incubator to culture tissue for transplantation and other medical purposes, that's awesome, right. How 'bout this:
The Morningside Cannibals: a circle of polite middle-class people who dined out on each other, with the aid of a medical tissue incubator tank (...) they were reported to the Procurator Fiscal for outraging public decency and corpse desecration: a flimsy case, as the defence barristers pointed out in court, given that the dinner parties in question were strictly private affairs, and the human flesh on the plates had been cloned from ladies who were not only still alive but willing to testify that their own cultured meat tasted nothing like chicken.
So the glass, biometric identification, self-driving car—all here already albeit still in beta—are both welcomed and feared. And as Arthur Clarke and Douglas Adams once couldn't figure out the internet, it seems like Stross didn't expect the reality revealed to be even scarier than what he imagined.

The one thing I still don't get from this book is the second-person narrative. It's like a facebook friend who still refers to him/herself as the third person years after facebook removed the obligatory 'is'. I can live with that, but it's still annoying and doesn't add anything to the story. But ignoring that, I'll add Charlie Stross to my reading list.

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