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A lamentable, prosaic, and ultimately immature abnegation of the entire trilogy- basically akin to "It was all a dream" ending
on August 15, 2011
Having read all three books in back-to-back succession it strikes me that the author, while starting with an interesting concept that was certainly engaging and enthralling during the first fifty pages of book 1- Infoquake (mediocre writing style and one-dimensional characters notwithstanding) had really not given enough thought for the entire trilogy and its ultimate conclusion. Before commenting on my biggest criticism of this last book (see item (3)), I also want to briefly outline a few issues that compelled me to give this a lower rating than the book (and the entire trilogy) otherwise could have gotten.
1) The books read like they were either padded with unnecessary and rather poorly stylized exposition in an effort to make three books where one would have been enough. (God bless the nature of the literary business where quantity pays better than quality.) In essence, all three books could have been one book, with about 250-300 pages (at the very least) pruned for the sake of consistent flow, greater emphasis on relevant aspects of the story and the philosophy, all the while including less clutter and poor writing. The third book is the most poorly written in my opinion, where internal monologue, narrative plot advancement, dialogue and general pontifications by the author fit together in a contrived and rather awkward jumble. There are literally entire paragraphs consisting of sentences ending with question marks as a means of showing the inner thoughts of the main female protagonist. It's rather formulaic (as it is repeated often as way of showing the reader that this is Jara's inner voice), sexist as the author only portrays the women as weak while all men as strong, conniving, stoic, or brazen, and grates on the eyes and ears by simply being written in bad style. Simply put, either the author felt like he was above having to do basic editing to perfect his craft, or his editors simply slept at the wheel. What this resulted in was 20% interesting story, 80% cyberpunk space opera (in the derogatory sense), with all the cheese and utterly misplaced profanities to boot. Oh, and I forgot to mention that 90% of the book takes place in meetings, board meetings, and more conversations in meetings. Take Star Wars Episodes 1-3, take out all battle scenes and leave only the pointless walking and talking scenes and you get the gist of these books. Edit, edit, and edit some more. Again, if these 3 books were written as one, and better edited, the story would have been more compelling and less annoying to wade through.
2) The characters are completely inconsistent from chapter to chapter, and especially from book to book. In effect this does nothing other than further highlight the 1-dimensionality of all characters in the books, as well as giving a close reader an unnecessarily intimate look into the author's own personal psychological issues. This becomes apparent due to the flat narrative of each character, the lack of credible motivations or believable inner lives, the shifting beliefs and allegiances of friends and enemies that no normal human psyche would adhere to considering their circumstances and the short time span of all three books. At best all the characters come off as are mere facets of the various views the author has of himself - author as stoic, author as self-deprecating fat guy, author as ideal Ayn Randian ubermench, author as guy who has issues with women, author as arm chair general that any person with military training would laugh at, etc. The tragic result of all this is that at the end I didn't have a scintilla of care about any of the characters or their ultimate fates because none of them were in any way 'real'. Basically this was a pastiche of a pastiche.
3) And here is my main problem with the third book specifically: The author started with a difficult idea -multiple realities- rather reminiscent of Neal Stephenson's god-awful novel Anathema, and tried to do his best to massage the idea of multireal into something interesting. Ultimately, however, as far as a Utopian or social-commentary novel, these books, and the third one especially, completely fail to offer anything new to the socio-cultural discussion. This is because the author makes so many rudimentary mistakes and oversights about the proposed technology itself (nanotech), human nature (both social and biological), society in general (politics, ethics, etc), the nature of physics and thermodynamics (I am consistently baffled by how so many cyberpunk writers from a computer/IT background appear to willfully fail to learn even the basic presets of the laws of thermodynamics before leaping off into the magical world of nano-magic and use of nonsensical words like 'aether' or 'sub-aether'), and humanity's ultimate destiny in the sea of unbounded technology, which have already been painstakingly and eloquently explored for over a half a century by great philosophers and great sci-fi writers of yesteryear, that it reads like a hodge-podge of second-hand pseudo-intellectualism wrapped up in some self-aggrandizing messianic obsession with an Ayn-Randian superman sacrificing himself for the good of the world. And here's the biggest rub (not a spoiler): the book ends with practically a deus-ex machina denumeunt that essentially negates the entire three books, akin to those awful tv episodes that end with the main protagonist waking up an realizing that the entire episode was a dream.
In sum: the concept of multiple realities if a difficult one to use as a premise. Therefore, it requires care and aforethought to flesh the entire story out before starting the written project. This is because there is absolutely nothing more frustrating than an author teasing the reader for three books that perhaps there will be a clever, if not profound, resolution and realization of the significance of the proposed concept, only to be left with a "I didn't know where to go or how to wrap things up so I coped-out as best as I could by falling back on the most "meh" ("uninspired" for the cultured among you) martyr-esque ending to avoid all the difficulties of a tangled and pointless web... of basically people talking in circles about nothing.
Better books on the same themes: Accelerando by Charles Stross. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigulapi. River of Gods by Ian McDonald. Anything by Philip K. Dick or Jorge Luis Borges. And of course the classics: Neuromancer by William Gibson and the Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.