Friday, January 8, 2010


Hylozoic by Rudy Rucker, 2009.

The first time I read this author, one of the considerations for the Hugo voting in a couple of months. Doesn't deserve to be on the shortlist, by a long shot. Strange, occasionally interesting, but mostly incoherent. A sequel to an earlier work which I haven't read, but even with that as a proviso for not understanding everything, it rapidly becomes clear the author is just throwing things into the narrative arbitrarily. It's a postsingular society, aliens intervene, the religious right all enmasse instantly to be enslaved by aliens---the whole thing was at best a few drafts away from actually deserving publication, and it's made me strongly inclined not to read any more of Rucker's stuff. The plot is utterly insane, a large host of things that happen unbelievable, the characterization very weak and the prose barely competent. A struggle to finish. Easily the worst science fiction book from 2009 I've yet read. Much worse than Secret Son.

I've grown a lot more tolerant of fantasy over the past year, but I still orient towards science fiction for the most part. Certainly it's possible to tell a great story in either genre, but what science fiction offers implicitly more of is scale, a big picture. As a genre, it's not merely an invitation to a particular story or a certain series of events. It's instead a way to picture our future, the changes and alterations of the planet. Not simply to invent a character and have them run on their way, but to picture the changes that will impact on everyone. Certainly the singularity brings this concept in centrally--imagining vastly accelerated rate of technological development, and the manifold change in the definition of the human that can result. Rucker's failing isn't just that he reworks a scenario done in a vastly more interesting style in the past several decades--think of Marooned in Realtime, Accelerando, Diaspora--but that he actively undercuts the scale that most scifi and implicitly singularity scifi demands.

The people that matter in Hylozoic are a small collection of inventors, spouses of inventors and related community that were responsible for developing the main technology initially. They have their adventures, in time are victorious with a huge reset button that literally whisks the aliens away, and the whole fate of Earth is all about them. Their lives are the centers for massive reality television (since they apparently need the money, despite all this new miracle tech that they themselves developed) but while the populace at large is enthralled over who is sleeping with who, the disclosure of technologically advanced and hostile aliens raises no real concerns. There's not even social satire going on here, Rucker just apparently finds it convenient to go with the main population as insultingly useless. There's a half page after the main crisis is over describing how, in response to every government in the planet collaborating enthusiastically with the aliens, the people get rid of elected government and start applying a more utopian direct democracy. It's a conclusion so far out of field with everything that's happened previously, an covered in such a brief analysis, that the term deus ex machina doesn't even cover it.

There's no dignity to any of these characters, nor belivability in anything they do. Do not recommend.

Similar to and better than: ?
Similar to and worse than: Charles Stross' Accelerando

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