I just finished Accelerando and this is my immediate, unfiltered reaction: huh. A novel so complex and filled with ideas that the narrative at times seems merely a framework on which to hang them on. Something so rich and brilliant that you could take one page and extrapolate hundreds of stories from it, explorations of casual inventions that Stross burns through at the speed of light. It’s like he’s got the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in his head, and a mere 400 pages to boil it down for us, a mere novel in which to elucidate his visions of the future.
He’s not kidding around. He doesn’t have time to hold our hands. You better know what a Dyson sphere is going in, you better have figured out computronium, because you won’t get more than a passing paragraph’s worth of explanation. This guy writes densely, using precise jargon that grows nearly too convoluted to follow as he tries to clearly present his ideas.
If anything, that’s the one problem I had with the book. It’s a slave to its ideas, and in the end the character’s voices seem to blend into each other, the narrative structure seems almost crude. Like the skeleton of a beached whale, each bone white rib glaring in the light of the sun, you can see the broad strokes with which Stross is painting, and the delight is often not so much in the interactions of the characters but the ongoing wonder of seeing where Stross is going to take you next.
It is dense. You have to read alertly, pausing occasionally to parse paragraphs as you let implications sink in. The guy condenses – what? The next several hundred years into this book, pre and post-Singularity, using perhaps three or four main characters as vehicles. I often had to search for explanations online, learning on the fly about advanced statistics, physics, biology, telecommunications and speculative futurology.
That’s what’s incredible. That he has not only crafted a vision of the future (how probable is debatable, of course), but that he has assimilated so much knowledge and used it to do so. The man is an incredibly lucid and imaginative thinker, able to take historical and current trends and extrapolate from there, to cast out endless reams of thought experiments and logically extend them to the ends of potential human experience.
The universe, by the time we reach the end of the book, is nearly unrecognizable, but we can see how it got there, even if much of the process has become unexplainable due to the key actors having evolved beyond human understanding, and thus Stross’s ability to describe them to us. He forges a tenuous link between the first iteration of the protagonist described in the opening chapter and the last, and it is by carefully nurturing that connection in an Aineko-styled fashion that we’re able to get to the end, as distant and hard to understand as it is fascinating.