Author: Charles Stross
Published: Ace Books, 2005
Genre: Science Fiction, Transhumanism

Charles Stross is one of the best writers of transhumanist SF around today (although he refers to it as posthumanism, not transhumanism). He has written a number of books set in the far (or maybe not-so-far) future, exploring the effects that advanced biological sciences and artificially created neural networks will have on humans. You should read some of his books. But not this book. Not unless you are really obsessed with transhumanism, anyway...

Accelerando is a novel pasting together a number of short stories previously published in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. And I use the word 'pasting' deliberately. While this book is packed full of new and exciting ideas, the plot and writing style leaves a lot to be desired. Mr. Stross made a number of interesting and unusual choices when writing this book. For example, it is written in the third person present tense. It spans three generations, in a jerky and unpredictable manner. It is interspersed with 'news updates', updating you on what wonderful advancements have occurred this decade. And it doesn't build. I have almost finished the book, but I have no more urge to finish it than I would a particularly interesting glossary of ideas. I don't care what happens to any of the characters, and I'm somewhat indifferent as to whether or not the human race survives. I would identify it as an ODTAA plot, except that the 'D' is largely missing from the equation -- it's like browsing the 2100 edition of Wikipedia.

Okay, enough griping. Charles Stross is a brilliant idea man, and he does a great job of showing what the future really holds. He is over-emphasizing (I think) the speed that the future will arrive and the role that nanobot matter munchers will play in reformatting the solar system, but I could be wrong. I'm certain that he is entirely correct in predicting that large portions of the human race will upload themselves; if you don't believe this, reading this book may convince you. But that's hardly a new idea; what really makes this book worthwhile is his exploration of what it means to be uploaded. Suddenly posthumans are in direct competition with viruses, worms, self-improving AIs, failed (or perhaps too successful) science experiments, and all the oddities of the internet writ large and evolving fast.

The characters are insanely cool (which makes the complete lack of good editing -- or writing -- all the sadder); a technologist who patents multiple inventions a day, releasing them all into the public domain, earning him the whoofie lifestyle of a billionaire without a cent ever entering his bank accounts; a colony of orphans that sets up a kingdom on a moon of Jupiter and becomes one of the major powers of the solar system; a cloned kitten that has had so many apps applied to it that it is more powerful than any of the enhanced humans around it; a boy who was raised in simulation dozens of times to find the best outcome, who unbeknownst to his parents has been logging and integrating all of his ersatz lifetimes.

If anyone is looking for a good piece of fanfic to write for NaNoWriMo, this would be a great universe to fill with some personalities. So very close to being a good book...