On the tenth of January, I went to my first meeting of Eric Rabkin’s science fiction and fantasy discussion group. The book under discussion was Accelerando by Charles Stross.
I first encountered Stross in Asimov’s SF magazine. In fact the novel Accelerando was serialized in Asimov’s. The first story I read was ‘Tourist’, now one of the early chapters in Accelerando. I was blown away. It was some of the best short SF I’d read in a long time. The discussion on Tuesday gave me a chance to think about why I thought this was so good.
I think the strongest point of the book is the style. It’s very densely referential, one single page may refer to Slashdot, Shakespeare, Lovecraft and Bertrand Russell. The references remind me of the information overload sometimes encountered on the web, where just clicking on one more link or reading one more blog feels like it will provide the answer to some unknown question or satisfy some addiction to information. I could relate to the style of the book. In fact the style felt more like a description of contemporary life than a projection of what the future might hold.
The plot is pretty basic: the recurrent conflicts over three generations in a family that lives through the singularity. There’s a lot of jealously, in-fighting, political and personal manuvering. But it’s not really very memorable. Some of the ideas he generates are more interesting than others. Most of the reading group agreed that his computer science speculations were questionable or at least thin. The science was very speculative. After all the whole idea of the singularity is questionable.