Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.
Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun.
The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander…and when that happens, it casually spams Earth’s networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems. A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there’s always someone who’ll take a bite from the forbidden apple.
So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth’s anthill, there’s Tech Jury Service: random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.
About Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross
CORY DOCTOROW is a coeditor of Boing Boing and a columnist for multiple publications including the Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. He was named one of the Web’s twenty-five influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. His award-winning novel Little Brother was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
CHARLES STROSS, author of several major novels of SF and fantasy including Singularity Sky, Accelerando, Halting State, and Rule 34, is widely hailed as one of the most original voices in modern SF. His short fiction has won multiple Hugo Awards and Locus awards. He lives in Edinburgh.
Billions of humans have abandoned their meat bodies and uploaded themselves into the cloud surrounding the Earth, where they engage in esoteric amusements, spamming the incarnated with bizarre inventions and concocting Byzantine political schemes. Their pawn is Huw Jones, a cranky, neo-Luddite Welsh potter whose larynx, accustomed to the complex glottals of his native tongue, is ideally suited to host the sophisticated communications array of their ambassador. The ascended humans’ machinations convey Huw to a Libyan courtroom run by an insanely dictatorial judge; a Charleston, S.C., inhabited by fundamentalists, an underground cult of kinky hedonists and an invading Hypercolony of cyborg ants; and finally the cloud itself, where the continued existence of humanity…depends on Huw’s reconciliation with his estranged parents. The novel offers a technologically updated, if less emotionally resonant, discussion of the digital mind/body conundrums explored by William Gibson and Charles Platt 20 years ago, and Tony Daniel 10 years ago. Even though Earth’s fate hinges on Huw’s relationships, they don’t have much depth to them—which may be intentional. In particular, Huw’s alleged love for the transhuman, Bonnie, never truly comes into focus; the authors are far more adept at illustrating Huw’s incredible self-involvedness and immaturity. Although this book is clearly meant to be broadly humorous, a little less petulance from the protagonist would have made this absurdist sci-fi quest a more absorbing read. – Kirkus Reviews
You Don’t Have To Be A ‘Nerd,’ But It Helps
NPR Book Review – September 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
Cranky technophobe Huw is in a bad way. It’s centuries into the future, self-aware technology has formed a “singularity” — a floating superbrain cloud in the upper atmosphere — and his parents have already uploaded to it, leaving their bodies behind. Even household items literally have minds of their own. Huw’s only consolation is that he has been summoned to a kind of jury duty, evaluating a new technology the superbrain has suggested, so at least he’ll have the satisfaction of saying no if he thinks the new machine is too dangerous to let loose on Earth.
But the jury goes awry when Huw finds himself host to a very strange parasite, something political factions would kill him to get their hands on. The conspiracies spiral out, and soon he’s named humanity’s unwilling ambassador to the data cloud.
Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow are both well-established SF writers with a documented fondness for all things far-future, post-human and cyber. Their award-winning work often explores technology that supersedes the human, governments gone absurd and the complex relationship between the past and the future. They seem well-suited for a novel that’s really a conversation about humanity’s hopes in a post-human world. Unfortunately, this particular novel-as-conversation seems to be more of a breathless monologue, and the overall effect is that of being trapped in an elevator with an enthusiastic computer science major who has just picked up a minor in philosophy. [Read the full article...]
THE SABRINA STRONG SERIES by LORELEI BELL