I read Fall or Dodge in Hell in the past two weeks, reading the Dutch book Suikerbastaard in between.
Fall is about 900 pages, so it took a bit more time than average to read.

(spoilers below the image)


Neal Stephenson discussing The Fall, image by Christopher Michel, license CC-BY

The book consists of multiple distinct large parts on a timeline. Normal beginnings where a billionaire wants his body preserved until his brain can be properly scanned, a part where the internet is becoming obsolete due to too many fakes, hoaxes and trolling, a post truth US where religious cults are rampant in Ameristan i.e. the spaces between the urban areas that are still tied to reality, the part where the rebooted brain of the billionaire creates his own world, to be unseated as main deity by newcomers, and a quest to right that wrong.

Enoch Root makes an appearance again, entering quite dramatically, and seems to indicate he comes from a plane of existence that created our world as a simulation. Towards the end Zula says ‘I understand light speed now’ as an externally applied constraint, the limit posed by the processing power available to our virtual environment. The speed at which changes propagating from an event can be calculated determines the speed of causality in the piece of spacetime we’re in. That’s the moment Enoch Root says to her his task here is complete and he vanishes into the fog, suggesting he’s leaving our sim, to return to another plane of existence. Not so much turtles all the way down, as sims all the way up?

Met plezier Suikerbastaard van Jaap Scholten gelezen. Ik kreeg het boek in september van E tijdens een weekendje wandelen in de Limburgse heuvels. Tijdens de feestdagen was er gelegenheid het te lezen. Ik las al eerder boeken van Scholten, o.a. De wet van Spengler en Morgenster. Scholten’s stijl voelt op de een of andere manier altijd meteen vertrouwd aan. Alsof je vanaf de eerste regel weet dat je bij elkaar in de kunnigheid zit: dat voorzichtige Twentse aftasten waar je familie en netwerk van vrienden op dat van de ander aansluit, die noodzakelijk is als basis voor vertrouwen in een eerste gesprek.

In Suikerbastaard gaan Twentse metaalarbeiders in de jaren 50 en 60 in Ethiopië aan de slag om suikerfabrieken te bouwen. Sommigen laten hun genetische sporen na, alvorens terug te gaan. Niet iedereen komt terug, sommigen raken verweven met het turbulente land en worden uiteindelijk opgeslokt in de zinderend hete zoutwoestijn.

The first novel by Ada Hoffmann (pseudonym), a Canadian author, published last year. A Lovecraft subversion of ultimately almost an entire planet brings on the Inquisition, AI gods originally created by man from our current lowly computers (since banned as heretic by the AI), and dependent on a diet of human minds. The protagonist, Yasira, like the author, is autistic and it enables her to grasp patterns that elude others, ultimately her Inquisitor as well. In doing so she finds a tenuous place in The Outside for herself and the love of her life, and a way of carefully balancing and joining the humans on the subverted planet with/into the pattern of The Outside, so they have meaningful agency in it. Weaving humanism into cosmicism at the hands of a ‘neuro-divergent’ protagonist like that, to me is a beautiful subversion in itself of Lovecraft (1890-1937), whose rascist nativist mind’s nihilism at the dawn of the scientific century can’t be seen separate from the stranger than fiction he wrote.

Enjoyed this. Its sequel is due to appear in 2021. Time, like space, is a lie, so it will be here soon, if it isn’t already.

An epistolary novel, spanning the ages and the many-verse branches of a time war. The Agency, a post-singularity technoworld, and The Garden, a world spanning consciousness based in all organic matter, each field agents to nudge history towards themselves as inevitable outcome of time. Red and Blue are opposing agents that enter into correspondence. Co-written by Amal el-Mothar and Max Gladstone. A very different story, which made it great fun to read.

A capable engineer treats the world as a machine in order to exact revenge for a personal injustice. The enormous human consequences are regrettable collateral damage but an unavoidable part of the logic, at least to the engineer. Set in a medieval world in which one anomalous city state is a guilds-run bureaucratised industrial power.

Published 2005, Part 1 of a trilogy. K.J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt.

I had thought there would be no more Murderbot stories, as the last one seemed to come to an end. But this longer book makes an interesting jump, using a side branch from an earlier installment, as well as breaking out of having just the one Murderbot’s internal contemplations towards contemplating how constructs might come to terms with socialisation and group forming. In a sense this one was more about depression and recovering mental health, where the previous stories used the protagonist’s robotic mental health more like a prop or source of irony.