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Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross
The Rapture of the Nerds
Tor / Tom Doherty Associates
US Trade Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-765-32910-3
Publication Date: 09-04-2012
352 Pages; $24.99
Date Reviewed: 02-12-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  Science Fiction  Fantasy  General Fiction

With words, writers can work a sort of magic that cannot be achieved in any other medium. In just a few short sentences, great writers can conjure images and create characters that simply cannot exist in our world. They can set in motion plots and action that are unthinkable until we read about them. The key is that the reader does all the heavy lifting. The reader provides the realizations of what the writer has imagined. It's a code, a cipher that once broken unlocks a whole world.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross are well-versed in the wor(l)d-building business. Both are seasoned science fiction writers with many worlds to their credit. In 'The Rapture of the Nerds,' Doctorow and Stross turn their grammar amplifiers up to eleven in order to craft a ripping farce set in a future that rides the edges of incomprehensibility with the finesse of a graceful drunk trying to hail a cabbie after a major league bender. Swaying, shouting, wheedling and inveigling against all ills in this world and those likely to follow, 'The Rapture of the Nerds' combines low humor, high intelligence and dangerous creativity to actually succeed in its quest to see the unforeseeable future.

When the world has gone so far to hell as to be virtually and actually unrecognizable, readers need a guide with both feet on the ground, so Doctorow and Stross tell the story of Huw, a Welsh rejectionist who attempts as much as possible the eschew using the omnipresent and hyper-weird technology that has overrun the planet like kudzu on acid after the singularity. In case you've been in hypersleep, the singularity is now the given name for what many believe to be the inevitable intimate unification of man and machine, after which, well, all bets are off. The definition of the singularity is that those who lived before it (ie, us, the readers) will not be able to understand what comes after it (ie, everything that happens in the book).

To write a novel set in this world is a challenge that Doctorow and Stross manage with a fair amount of ease. Huw helps a lot. He's a grumbling, bumbling guy who wakes up after a party with something much worse than a hangover. Before you can say "Down the rabbit hole," Huw is there, and the going gets weirder and weirder. Bathrooms can change your sex. A whole generation of minds simply left their bodies to become petty orbital gods who periodically dump incomprehensibly weird technology onto the earth. Huw is drafted to judge one such thing, and it proves to be the proverbial cure worse than the disease.

'The Rapture of the Nerds' is a wild, hairy-eyed science fiction farce, consistently hilarious but simultaneously, deeply though-provoking. As Huw tours his world, so do we. In America, a nation of throwbacks, highly-armed fundamentalists have been left behind by the digital rapture. Huw confronts teapot genies, pepper-pot automatons and sim-Huws that may or may not be more real than Memorex. Grounded by Huw's steady rejectionist suspicions, Doctorow and Stross have a field day with prose that is the electric Kool Aid acid test of techno-poetry, sometimes silly, sometimes nonsensical, but more often than not based on some fascinating extrapolation that merits and rewards serious thought.

For all the wild invention to be found between these very nicely-designed sans dust-jacket covers, 'The Rapture of the Nerds' plays it smart and offers, bottom line, a grounded character in a very straightforward farce. Ridiculousness is the norm in this new world. Technology has finally and fully taken root. It's exploded into a field full of wild weeds, gnarly scavengers and broken refrigerators, inviting kids in the neighborhood to see what happens when they climb inside and close the door behind them. Now is what happens. Our world is what happens. We're already quite insane. Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, have, in 'The Rapture of the Nerds,' simply managed to corral the language to tell us just how crazy we are.

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