The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross

The Rapture of the Nerds: A Tale of Singularity, Poshumanity, and Awkward Social Situations

The Rapture of the Nerds is a tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations. So obviously there was going to be a lot going on between the covers of this book. I’m not convinced I got every joke or all the science, but I really enjoyed hurtling along with Huw as he fell into one disastrous situation after another.

At the end of the 21st century Huw is one of the relatively few humans still living on Earth. He’s a self-confessed, and proud, technophobe, happiest throwing pots the old-fashioned way in his 19th century terraced house. He’s gone so far as to eschew electricity, although his push bike has a few more features than perhaps strictly necessary. His parents have long uploaded themselves to the cloud, along with most everyone else. Huw’s determined to stay where he is, avoiding unnecessary technology as much as possible. He’s thrilled to have been selected for tech jury service; not only can he fend off some useless innovation but he also gets to travel to Libya, and he’s pretty excited about that.

Unfortunately for Huw, some joker has scrawled a biohazard symbol on his forehead at Sandra’s party the night before. At least he hopes it was just a joke, although the itching and shifting symbol leave him a bit perturbed. Anyway, he has to start his trip in full-on biohazard gear, which leaves him none too thrilled. The journey is not exactly plush, the hotel is even worse, and he meets some seriously annoying people. Still, it’ll all be worth it once jury service starts – right? It’s not long before Huw’s paranoia starts to twitch, and the thing about paranoia is that it doesn’t mean they are not out to get you. Before long Huw is in deep deep trouble with just about everyone – he’s being chased by various ‘authorities’, ‘helped’ by an assorted group of people with their own agendas, subject to physical depredations and seriously confused. Oh, and something is after his body. And something else would like his mind.

Huw is thrown from one dire situation to another, frequently captured, desperate, and rarely in charge of his own destiny for more than a moment. Everyone around wants something from him, the best he can do is figure out who is the least likely to kill him at any given time. He spends quite a lot of the book as a passive figure – stuff is done to him – but later on he gets to make some choices for himself. Not that they always work out all that well, but at least he had a go. It seems that he is far more important than he ever thought, the fate of the earth is on him, whether he likes it or not. Mostly he does not.

The book contains lots of ideas, about the future of the planet and humans, technology, alternative consciousness, and loads more. It deals with all these big ideas in a light-hearted, almost farcical way. Anything that can go wrong, does. This could be irritating, but actually I thought it worked. The story just keeps ploughing along at a fair old lick, dragging the reader along with it. I found it very entertaining, and felt an awful lot of sympathy for Huw and his predicament. He is given a proper character, we get to know him pretty well. Most of the other people are either more transient or simply unknowable in their shifting allegiances and priorities. But, even amid all the chaos there is still space for some very human relationships. Huw finds a little romance, and finally deals with his relationship with his parents. All whilst trying to save his home. Can’t be bad!

Titan Books sent me a copy of The Rapture of the Nerds for review. It’s available now in Paperback.

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