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Book Review

Book Cover

The Rapture of the Nerds


Authors: Cory Doctorow and Charles Cross
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 78116 744 1
Available 12 April 2013

Huw is having a crap life and not just because he is Welsh. Waking after a particularly bad party Huw finds himself infested with a sophisticated communications device from the Cloud, the solar system spanning mass of intelligences which have uploaded themselves from the Earth, leaving the planet overrun with deviants and nutters. Things go from bad to worse as he ends up in North Africa in a combination of technological jury and game show before heading to the god bothering Charleston before returning home in time for tea, as a woman. Now, only Huw stands between the intelligences in the Cloud and the utter destruction of the human race...

The Rapture of the Nerds is a new comedic science fiction novel by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross.

Comedy and science fiction are not easy bedfellows and only a few have successfully pulled of the combination with the noted exception of Douglas Adams, although other authors have also succeeded in joining the genres such as Harry Harrison.

Adams's main trick was using the conditions of the average joke which sets up a condition, leading the audience to presume that they know the end only to twist the story/joke at its end. In Rapture Doctorow and Stross have gone more for the Airplane approach to comedy by packing in gags, so if you don’t find one aspect, idea or piece of conversation funny, worry not another is coming along right behind.

It means that the book often feels like a string of amusing instance strung together. At times the comedy takes such a front row that plot construction, characterisation - unless you count making everyone have oddity in their personality or behaviour - and idea development can get a little swamped in the gagathon.

That’s not to say that the book does not have a number of good original ideas, as well as purloining reasonable genre tropes to fill the pages.

Comedy is a very personal medium, funny is ultimately what you find funny and at best I found the book amusing, whilst frustrating as so many of the ideas are thrown in for comedic effect without any real attempt to explore them.

Some readers might be turned off by the dystopian Earth that the writers have created or the lack of a core of ordinariness against which to contrast the surreal aspects of the book. Others might find this the funniest thing they have read in a long time.

The book is well constructed and with a plethora of ideas bursting from the pages, its well worth checking out, but there’s no guarantee you’ll like it.


Charles Packer

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