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?
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.
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.
This is a collection of short stories by N.K. Jemisin (I’ve been reading her work in the past weeks, similar to how I read all books by other authors when I encounter something I liked.). The title attracted me, and I didn’t know it was a collection of short stories. Jemisin says she started writing short stories as stepping stones towards novel writing. She didn’t want to at first, did it following advice, but came to enjoy it.
Some of the stories are recognisable from her novels, where elements got re-used, or entire worlds flowed from the short story. There are many other stories in there, which allows one to hope for more novels 🙂
I also read Emergency Skin, a story not in this collection.
I’m reading N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Currently about half way through. It’s set in New York City, and the city is coming alive as a sentient entity. It builds on how cities can feel like there’s something to them that’s bigger than its parts, that constitutes some sort of character, personhood. Berlin does that for me, which attracts and repulses me at the same time. Copenhagen does too, like a comfortable coat during a beautifully glowing, but unexpectedly chilly sunset. London, yes, inspiring and gritty. And NYC, indeed. The image below is from my first visit to NYC, in ’93. With two friends we drove our car from up near Albany to Yonkers and then down the entire Manhattan peninsula taking in our surroundings, right down to Times Square, and exploring from there on foot. It was a grimy city then I felt. Another visit, just weeks after 9/11 it was a griefing city, putting everything into sharper focus, oddly clear sounds in the city’s overall din, more saturated colors, right along side the stench wafting over it all from its deep smouldering wound at ground zero.
Looking at the images, listening to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind.
NYC in 1993, from Empire State Building, looking down E34th and E33th towards Lexington Av
This book picks up a month after Escapology, and forms a whole with it. Virology is a cyberpunk novel in which your avators turn out to be created from essential parts of your identity, so when someone locks them all up in the Slip, a VR internet, you feel amputated. The protagonist has a biological piece of software taking over its implanted harddrive and then his brain and body, while chasing down the antagonists with his gang. All ends well, just knee deep in gore. There’s something in Warom’s writing, an edginess and friction that keeps me reading.
So I bought her other published work and read that too.
Ren Warom hasn’t maintained her own online presence, other than Twitter, after 2018 it seems, and her Instagram account since the spring of 2019 (though I did take a few reading tips from the book images she posted there before).