The Rapture of the Nerds
by Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross
Doctorow is nerd royalty. The co-creator of Boing Boing has been a noted voice when it comes to the subject of emerging technologies, copyright laws, and the overlap of tech and storytelling. If nothing else, he’s shown the same savvy at harnessing the digital world to promote himself as people like Felicia Day or Jonathan Coulton. He’s also penned some half-dozen SF novels with amusing titles such as Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Pirate Cinema.
His latest novel, The Rapture of the Nerds, subtitles itself as “a tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations.” What shall we expect? Musings on the oncoming singularity, amusing futurist technobabble, and probably quite a few laughs. While Doctorow is probably best known for co-editing Boing Boing, I’ve never delved into his fiction yet, but the synopsis for Rapture has won me over enough to grab a copy for my iPad. The Rapture of the Nerds is our SF pick of the week, and here’s the synopsis:
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.
Coma: Part 1 (A&E, 9/8c)
Based on the 1977 book by Robin Cook, Coma tells the story of a young medical student who stumbles upon an unsavory conspiracy involving coma patients. This miniseries is the second time the book has been adapted; the first was way back in 1978, a feature film version written and directed by Michael Crichton. This version has quite a cast lined up, including Lauren Ambrose, Ellen Burstyn, Geena Davis, James Woods, and Richard Dreyfuss.
“Clockwork Angels” by Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart
I never thought I’d have occasion to type “a science fiction collaboration with Rush drummer Neil Peart.” Nevertheless, Clockwork Angels is a science fiction collaboration with Rush drummer Neil Peart. The other half of that collaboration is coming from writer Kevin J. Anderson. That suggests that Clockwork Angels might actually be worth a look, odd origins or no odd origins. Here’s the synopsis.
A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel. In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. The mind-bending story is complemented with rich paintings by the five-time Juno Award winner for Best Album Design, Hugh Syme.
Coma: Part 2 (A&E, 9/8c)
What is there to say? It’s the second part of the thing that started the previous night. Coma Harder. Fine, here’s a trailer:
Fringe: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-Ray & DVD)
The show’s penultimate season quite naturally starts wrapping up many of the threads it had woven over the years. You can expect resolutions to the two universes, Peter Bishop’s debatable existence, and more of the exponentially hotter red-headed Olivia Dunham. If you haven’t seen it yet, grab a copy and marathon it before the fifth and final season kicks off on September 28th.
Person of Interest: Season One (Blu-Ray & DVD)
CBS’ Minority Report-esque series involves a mysterious billionaire teaming up with a former CIA agent to prevent crimes using a sophisticated algorithm that can predict them before they happen. Created by Jonathan “Brother of Chris” Nolan, the show has a knockout cast including Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, but it nonetheless lost me about halfway through the season. Did it ever become more than just a procession of self-contained “murder of the week” stories? Is it worth checking out again?
“Slow Apocalypse” by John Varley
Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Varley spins a tale of cataclysm not caused by solar flares or global warming or runaway nanobots, but by the sudden and irrevocable loss of the petroleum that feeds the world’s economies. The whole “liquid into a solid” reminds me of the “ice-nine” from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. If Slow Apocalypse proves half as good as that book, Varley’s got a hit on his hands. Via Amazon:
Despite wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 9/11, the United States’ dependence on foreign oil has kept the nation tied to the Middle East. A scientist has developed a cure for America’s addiction—a slow-acting virus that feeds on petroleum, turning it solid. But he didn’t consider that his contagion of an Iraqi oil field could spread to infect the fuel supply of the entire world…
In Los Angeles, screenwriter Dave Marshall heard this scenario from a retired US marine and government insider who acted as a consultant on Dave’s last film. It sounded as implausible as many of his scripts, but the reality is much more frightening than anything he could have envisioned.
An ordinary guy armed with extraordinary information, Dave hopes his survivor’s instinct will kick in so he can protect his wife and daughter from the coming apocalypse that will alter the future of Earth—and humanity…
Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm #1 (Boom Studios)
This new comic series is set in the timeline/universe of the original films, and begins eight years before a certain NRA-endorsing astronaut dropped onto the Planet of the Apes. Cataclysm is just the latest of several Apes comic series that Boom has released this year. Here’s the rundown:
BRAND-NEW SERIES! GREAT JUMPING-ON POINT FOR NEW READERS! Acclaimed writers Corinna Bechko (HEATHENTOWN, FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT) and Gabriel Hardman (HULK, AGENTS OF ATLAS) start a new chapter of the PLANET OF THE APES saga, launching the fan-favorite franchise into its most exciting era yet!
Eight years before astronaut George Taylor fell from the stars…the stars fell on the PLANET OF THE APES! Once the destroyer of human civilization, the Alpha-Omega bomb of yore has slept silent in the dark side of the moon. One mad monk seeks to wake the beast…and all of ape society is at risk. It’s a race against time as Doctor Zaius struggles to find an end to the madness that has engulfed all that he knows!
Doctor Who (BBC America, 9/8c) – “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”
There are these dinosaurs, see? And they’re on this spaceship, get it? Sadly, Samuel L. Jackson is nowhere to be found, so it’s up to The Doctor to sort things out proper. My only question: will they be feathered?
Robot Chicken: DC Comics Special (Adult Swim, 11:59/10:59c)
After having mercilessly torn apart George Lucas’ Star Wars films, Seth Green and the other Robot Chicken types set their sights on another pop-cultural sacred cow: the iconic DC heroes including Superman, Batman, and poor, often-mocked Aquaman.
Scanning the Skies: The Discovery Channel Telescope (Discovery, 7/6c)
As we reported a couple of months back, the Discovery Channel decided to really embrace their name by funding a brand-new telescope in Arizona. This special takes a look at the project, which was over a decade in the making.