This looked really great: Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross collaborate on a story that celebrates and/or parodies the Singularity.

It might well be to your taste.  Here, have a sample:

[Huw] mutters transhuman curses in groaning harmony at the battered teapot– no longer hosting the avatar of a particularly annoying iffrit, but evidently hacked by Ade and his international cadre of merry pranksters.  “Why South Carolina? G’wan, you. Why there, of all places?”

He isn’t expecting a reply, but the teapot crackles for a moment; then a translucent holo of Ade appears in the air above it, wearing a belly dancer’s outfit and a sheepish expression.  “Yer wot? Ah, sorry mate.  Feckin’ trade union iffrit’s trying to make an alpha buffer attack on my sprites.” The image flickers then solidifies, this time wearing a bush jacket again. “Like, why South Carolina? To break the embargo, Huw. Ever since the snake-handlers crawled outta the swamps and figured the Rapture had been and gone and left ’em behind, they’ve been waiting for a chance at salvation, so I figured I’d give them you.” Ade’s likeness grins wickedly as red horns sprout from his forehead. “You and the back channel to the ambassador from the cloud.  They want to meet God so bad, I figured you’d maybe like to help the natives along.”

I don’t know which of them to blame, but basically every sentence is trying terribly hard to be clever, cool, and faintly outrageous.  It’s tiring, and I was only able to make it about a third of the way through.

The book seems to take the same strategy as the weakest issues of Transmetropolitan: try to communicate that The Future will be 100% wacky 100% of the time.  So, let’s see, there’s the friend of Huw’s who rearranges her sentient house at a whim, the huge anarchist ant colony that’s taken over the eastern US, the zeppelins, the backwards Islamic socialists of New Libya, the genetically engineered oil-creating trees that are useless because people don’t use oil anymore, the rednecks in South Carolina who worship God and Ayn Rand… who actually shows up in the last pages of the book… and that’s to say nothing of the singularity itself, which has turned the solar system into computronium as in Accelerando— all the other oddities, as in that book, are just tales of the insufficiently evolved.

I feel like I dodged a bullet, because I was thinking of doing the same sort of thing in a new Incatena novel.  Instead of telling stories about the frontier, I was going to show up some of the high weirdness on one of the more advanced planets, like Mars or Sihor itself.  Oh, the satirical hijinx that would ensue!

The thing is, it’s a cheat.  The culture you grow up in doesn’t feel alien to you.

It can feel rushed, dangerous, like everything’s changing too fast, sure.  That’s what people have felt for the last hundred years.  I can definitely see the people of 2493 complaining that man, things are hectic these days, why can’t we have the calm of the 2460s back.  But people adapt.  We don’t react to the novelties of 2013 as if we were born in 1827.  We’re not continually freaking out.  When we do freak out, it’s not usually because of the rapidity of cultural change.  Usually it’s our old primate nature: family drama, can’t find the good bananas, mating is hard, the alpha males are assholes.

Stross has already written a satirical book about the Singularity, Accelerando, so I’m not sure what he felt he was adding here.  One thing at least has been subtracted: a plot.  Stuff happens to Huw, it keeps happening, but a third of the way through there is no predicament he has to solve.  He gets into situations, they’re solved by a deus ex machina (of the ancientest type: an actual machine), he gets into another one, and I couldn’t even tell you if there’s an overall villain in the book.  Could be anyone he’s met, I guess, because, you know, 100% wacky 100% of the time.

This sort of thing can be done; the best examples are mostly by Alfred Bester.  The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man are convincing portraits of a world that’s even more whirlwind than ours.  But Bester knew how to keep the wackiness valve throttled.  Douglas Adams was also a master at this– he could pitchfork in the wackiness, and yet you always had the impression that a sufficient sense of irony– like Ford Prefect’s– could take it in stride.  Or there’s Snow Crash, which hits just the sweet spot between this world is neat and this world is appalling.

Plus, Stross on his own is much better at thinking through all the details.  That ant colony, for instance.  The book treats it like a ’50s horror movie– it just eats through everything.  First, what the fuck does this have to do with the Singularity?  Second, what happened to predators?  Third, how does the colony stay alive in any region once it’s consumed all the biomass?

Oh, and Huw is chosen by the AI cloud as an interpreter because his larynx is particularly developed… because he speaks Welsh.  Good godda fuck.

There’s also a weird xenophobia to the book.  There’s an orientalist twinge to New Libya, a feeling that there’s just something too funny about hackers and high tech appearing in the sand dunes.  And the fundies in South Carolina make no more sense than the ant colony.  They mix Baptists, charismatics, and Catholics, they talk funny, they’re somehow simultaneously backwoodsmen and Randites.  This isn’t even satire, it’s just a huge lazy self-indulgent wink at the reader.

And then we meet the Bishop of the First Church of the Teledildonic, which believes in nudity and free love… srsly Cory and Charlie?  From fundie jokes to laughing at the pervs?  I guess I kind of expected what sounded like a satire of the Singularity to be, well, a satire of the Singularity, not a chance to unload on right-wingers, Arabs, and nudists.

But as I said, I couldn’t finish it, so maybe they finally get around to their ostensible topic later on.  I expect that tolerance for 100% wackiness varies by person and by previous reading, so you might do better with the book than I did.

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