Accelerando

Accelerando – Charles Stross (2005)

Accelerando is one of those highly convoluted stories that is hard to read because it has so many ideas coming at you at one time it’s hard to digest it all in one sitting. While many of the ideas are fascinating, they come at you in a barrage and, for me at least, this took away all of the enjoyment. I nearly gave up on the novel on several occasions, each time being pulled back in, but always coming back to the feeling that the effort wasn’t worth the enjoyment. Stross’ style was not to my liking at all, although I could see how some people may enjoy this masochistic style of storytelling.

Stross and a few other noted authors are the forerunners who explored the concept of the singularity in which our human derived electronic computational devices have attained the level where they become sentient. At the beginning of Accelerando, it is not yet a fait accompli, but something just around the corner. The protagonist is a rebel savant individual with a touch of Robin Hood against DRM enslavery. His brilliance spawns patents that he releases to the masses, much to the chagrin of the corporate world as well as the IRS who would like to see their share of the potential billions he could make if he only played entrepreneur with all his great ideas.

The story is partitioned as three separate generations, Manfred Macx, his daughter and his grandson and a cat. This is not as clear as it sounds since the technology and the singularity muddies the waters as regarding parental lineage once ‘people’ start spawning copies of themselves. Some of the fun is in the choice of embodiment as ‘people’ are no longer tied to ‘human’ bodies. Which bring us to ‘the cat’ a recurring pet that seems to be there whenever problems arise.

There is plenty of technobable and geek speak throughout, but it can also be annoying as it seems to be just more clutter than needed information most of the time. Other interesting aspects include the concept of mass and relative CPU computational power as land mass is converted to CPU. There is also a lot of historical politics brought into the story. The long shelved Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) initiative and battle is rejuvenated with odd consequences, Those who would like to see sentient AI enshrined both support and oppose the ERA. If it can be passed, an AI would have rights and potentially a vote. But would it also not mean that AI could eventually overrule all humans?

One last time I just have to mention. There are references to the Kennedys in a few passing phrases, but I distinctly remember reading about ‘grassy knoll’ at least twice and perhaps even three times. I’m pretty sure I missed out on some hidden message in all that, but because the writing style is all over the place, I probably missed a lot of other messages as well.

Bottom line: Not for me.

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