That was a mindfuck through my eyesockets.
And it was awesome. Now, we happen to be on the internet: there’s nigh infinite amount of mindfuckery at our disposal, but this was a cream of the crop mindfuck, the fine aged mindfuck grown in rustic rolling hills of Cthulu’s domain, uncorked in the presence of distinguished guests you actually like.
Truly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a visionary piece that’s also not totally mushy sci-fi, possibly not since reading some Cory Doctorow (especially his story “0wnz0red”), and boy, is it a heady drink. The term future-shock gets bandied about in the story, but they forget to break the fourth wall and address the reader, who is almost certainly future-shocked from being thrown into an unremembered past at hundreds of years per hour, all without leaving the same room.
It’s not just a mindfuck: it’s also managed to change my mind about what I should be doing in the near future (which puts it on par with HPMOR). Robots are still cool, but metacorticies? Might want to get that out of the way first.
Also, Accelerando includes galaxy-wide civilizations that run timing attacks on the substrate of the universe. Really, how awesome is that?
Enough with the gushing praise: what about the story? As a vision of the technical singularity, it takes the stance that one can indeed see past the intelligence explosion (contrary to other singularity theories), but only by following non-uploaded humans skirting past the growing Matrioshka brain. It is somewhat strange, since it posits uploads running the show (starting with lobsters) until they self-modify into something entirely non-human, supposing that uploads are easy to modify. However, knowing that we are godshatter, it can’t possibly be that easy, so the Less Wrong FAI vision seems more likely. But no one ever ask for likelihood with their mindfuck, did they?
I’d also like to compare Accelerando to The Forever War, another fairly hard sci-fi book (maybe 8 on the mohs scale?) that I recently read (during fall semester). I believe The Forever War was written before computing systems became fixtures in everyday life and uploads were an actual distinct possibility, Haldeman putting a clone hive-mind in control of humankind instead of Matrioska brains the size of the solar system. However, The Forever War boils down to an old fashioned love story, whereas Accelerando defenestrates that trope post-haste and instead shoves unalloyed future into your face.
I highly recommend you go get this vision of the future. Happy mindfucking!
Note: Stross doesn’t think the scenarios he details in Accelerando are very likely. However, it’s a good ride.