The singularity – a time when technological progress accelerates exponentially and where humanity, as we know it, becomes obsolete – has been called a joke by "the kidnapping of nerds". Neal Stephenson's novel Fall, gold, Dodge in Hell go a step further: what happens if the nerds are not just the prophets of a new order, but literally? became our gods?
On a sprawling network of techno-modern thriller, upcoming science fiction, and fantastic super-intrigues, Fall presents a theory on the mind-body problem, which takes John Milton's principle lost paradise, and a riff on the classic science fiction trope of the brain download. It is an ambitious book but massively unequal, mixing wonders with wide-eyed eyes and pessimism that borders on sociopathy.
Spoilers for some important points of the plot Fall to come – but especially those that have already been revealed in promotional material.
Like many Stephenson novels, Fall presents a huge cast of multigenerational characters – and in this case periodically reincarnated -. Richard "Dodge" Forthrast, president of an aging video game company and protagonist of Stephenson's previous novel Reamde.
The outline of the story: Dodge dies during a routine medical procedure and his consciousness is uploaded to a quantum computer. This digital Dodge (known as Egdod) slowly acquires self-awareness and builds a mystical space called Bitworld, presiding over a growing number of "souls" downloaded. The rich transhumanist Elmo "El" Shepherd is furious that Dodge has apparently ancient social system, unfortunately human. He throws Dodge out of his own paradise, setting up a power struggle that will shake the very foundations of Bitworld.
The best parts of Fall combine fascinating technological speculation with the vast archetypes of myth, which become a way for souls to make sense of their new existence. Egdod reconstructs the story of biblical creation as God, then John Milton lost paradise like the devil, with the help of a soul "pantheon" drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. His world follows a certain video game logic and his physical spaces are based on the birthplace of his childhood. El regards these references as a kind of original sin that needs to be purged from Bitworld, but as its symbolic name suggests, it is ultimately not above them.
Fall devotes chapters to Egdod's beautiful and meticulously logical rediscovery of things like rot and rebirth, while his living friends gather his actions through a glass – or at least, a visualization of the costs in computing resources – so dark. This story, however, really begins only 300 pages about 900 pages. Fall. Instead, his first section is full of extremely gloomy speculations about the near future, starting with a massive false news event falsified by a weapon.
After Dodge's death, someone convinces the world that terrorists have dropped a nuclear weapon on the city of Moab, Utah, largely destroying people's trust in the Internet (the "miasma") and the reality . And when Moab's "truths" take revenge on an innocent resident of the city, a consortium of technicians cuts the last thread, thus unleashing a system that will generate a lot of contradictory false theories about her in order to Isolate from all. .
A few years later, the United States actually split into different nations with different views of reality. Heartland "Ameristan" is full of people who believe that Moab was destroyed, including a rabid fundamentalist cult and fond of crucifixion. Meanwhile, affluent coastal residents like Sophie's niece Sophie of Dodge hire editors to sort the facts online.
This arc offers a brutal vision of the future and gives the impression of a more significant evolution of Stephenson's first novel. The age of the diamond, in which society is divided into intelligentsia enclaves and a class of "thetas" of lumpenproletariat. Falls The main characters spend most of their time outside Bitworld, either pontificating technical concepts or thinking about the senseless customs of the masses with a sense of anthropological perplexity. (Their incarnations in Bitworld do the same thing, but at least they have fiery swords and superpowers.)
Fall has almost a contempt for most souls in Bitworld when he deigns to recognize them. Stephenson is more interested in exploring the nature of consciousness and reality than in building an ideal society, even though it becomes clear that Dodge's imperfect paradise will likely replace Earth as the default land. of humanity. So Fall Constantly avoids thinking about what it means for some benevolent rich dictators to redefine reality. He often avoids the subject by writing other resurrected residents as servile, modest, avaricious and devoid of any intellectual growth capacity – so much so that Bitworld is indeed a world of video games composed of a few main characters and many other people. NPCs.
It's confusing to the point of scare, in a way that has never been recognized, and Falls Intriguing exploration of the question of whether people are really dedicated to bringing their old human pain into a world where everything is possible. If most of them are hardly worth treating as sentient beings and that others will naturally go to the deity, why bother to ask? It casts an even sadder light on the previous section of the real world, implying that even without the "Facebookification of America" - as it is called in Fall – most humans would be stuck in a state of hostile ignorance. And as the book enters its last section, it is lost in a simple imaginary quest, amusing in its own words, but which resembles a surrender of the earlier complexity of the novel.
Like Bitworld floating above its sea of chaotic data, Fall seems deeply sad under its whirlwind of great ideas. But no matter how many pages are devoted to world-building and philosophy, he never manages to possess this darkness – much less accept it.