Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Rapture of the Nerds

I liked about 50% of this book and really disliked the other 50%. I think it mainly has to due with personal taste, but also how coherehent you can make a futuristic world without becoming incoherent.

For example, I really enjoyed The Quantum Thief and its sequels, even though the depictions of the universe and the fighting is sometimes just word soup, but it felt self contained somewhat. Whereas The Rapture of the Nerds and other books like Space Unicorn Blues or Space Opera just descend into just constant word soup, mixed in with sex and physics.

It just never seems to work on me, as the thing that is generally sacrificed for all that noise is the plot and characters. I felt this very much with this book, with the first half of the book being absolutely fucking nonsense. It also felt that only a fraction of it was needed to inform the second half, which was much better and interesting as a novel.

There were just so many ideas competing for your immediate attention that after awhile you just frustrated with it, especially when you get to the end and most of it was irrelevant to begin with. It’s a fundamental brokenness with the world building. Instead of spending time emphasising what is important for the story, it just throws everything at the wall to either sound clever or in an attempt to be “oh hey, isn’t this super futuristic?”

The basic plot is that Huw, a misanthropist Welshman, with a massive dislike of the transcendence of humans into a great computer cloud in space, somehow gets mixed up with its politics. That sound simple enough, but then there is just a mind-bending amount of nonsense that happens, involving a post-rapture cult, a court case, a murderous tv-judge and a continent sized sentient colony of ants, etc etc. NONE OF WHICH REALLY MATTERS. It was 50% subplot of which maybe 5% was needed.

Through it all, I just got quite fed up with Huw, like he’s really mostly unlikeable as a character. So having to trudge through this improbable first act, to have none of it be entirely relevant was frustrating. And then most of it coming down to dealing with family drama, well, I hadn’t bought enough into the universe or the characters to really buy into it.

The second half was more interesting, but still suffered from just a complete bombardment of surface level ideas that are discarded in pursuit of the next quip, line or improbable situation. It was a lot of flash, with a very slender bit of plot to hitch along for the ride. There were some bits where I recognised this should be funnier than it was, that I would probably go along with in another novels, but it seemed entirely too contrived for a joke. Like how much of the plot with the Doc and Sam was for that stupid Ayn Rand scene. I don’t know. I just didn’t see the necessity for half of the convoluted sub-plots.

Mileage may vary, is all I’m saying.

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