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Transcension Hardcover – February 19, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (February 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765303698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765303691
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,134,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

In Transcension, Damien Broderick extrapolates a powerful science fiction novel from aspects of his speculative-science nonfiction book, The Spike, and creates a fascinating world at the edge of profound transformation.

In the near future, the brilliant lawyer/cybernetician Mohammed Kasim Abdel-Malik is killed by street thugs, but his body is rushed into cryonic suspension. His mind becomes the source for the Aleph, an artificial intelligence that will rule the world.

In the Aleph-ruled technotopia, Amanda Kolby-McAllister is a math and music genius who's almost 30, but she's trapped in adolescence by law and nanotech. Rebellious and bored, she attempts to catch an illegal and highly dangerous ride on the back of a subterranean Maglev freighter. Arrested, Amanda swears before the revived Abdel-Malik, now a Magistrate, that she will never again sneak into a Maglev hangar. But she conceives of another way to ride the supersonic train by entering the tunnel through a ventilation shaft in the Valley of the God of One's Choice--where outsiders are forbidden.

Mathewmark, who is a genuine adolescent, lives in the Valley of the God of One's Choice. Devout Luddites, the Valley inhabitants are outraged because the Maglev has opened a blasphemous vent into their Valley, but Mathewmark is more intrigued than disturbed, and his curiosity opens a way for Amanda to lead him into temptation. He helps her enter the Valley and the vent, with consequences that will bring them together with Abdel-Malik and the Aleph, and may completely change existence on Earth. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone who can't imagine grinning at the end of life as we know it should skip this book, but it'll be fun for people self-confident enough to imagine a lighthearted fusion of Clarke's Childhood's End and the movie Clueless. When Amanda, an adventurous adolescent girl, wanders into the life and mind of Mathewmark, a young man living in the Valley of the God of One's Choice, a low-tech, religious enclave, the two are soon on the bumpy road to romance. Meanwhile, the resurrected version of a scientist who'd been attempting to create artificial intelligence observes and attempts to judge what he sees in this fractured future. He's aware that an AI controls the world and may even have created the sensations that convince him there is a world out there. So should he be afraid? Angry? How should he feel when the AI begins to evolve into something else, changing the nature of humanity, too? As for Mathewmark and Amanda, they misunderstand each other, make fools of themselves and feel real pain, but also discover that change is more exciting than frightening. Australian author Broderick (The Dreaming Dragons) sees how silly individual humans can be, especially when they choose to stay isolated. However, he also believes that technology gives us fresh possibilities for unity and growth. By the end, the young people's gusto is contagious, and readers can feel confident that we'll all be able to cope with new challenges.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The story line is engaging as Damien Broderick adds several layers of depth to the typical super AI tale.
Harriet Klausner
On another level, it's a quite serious speculation about artificial intelligence beginning to direct its own evolution, and how that may very well affect humanity.
Warren Burt
Welcome to the Machine I recommend Transcension as a thumping good read for anyone who enjoys science fiction.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. LATORRA on June 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Many readers with an interest in transhumanist ideas such as the technological Singularity will already be familiar with Mr. Broderick's non-fiction book, The Spike. That was a book of big ideas about our possible future aimed at a general audience willing to do some serious reading. Unfortunately, the audience for serious reading is much smaller than the audience for "fun" reading, which is to say for fiction reading, where a good story with interesting characters will hold the reader's attention. Those characters and their story can then carry a large load of big ideas, which the fiction audience might otherwise refuse to read. I am happy to report that Broderick's novel Transcension succeeds in carrying lightly some very heavy ideas, indeed.
At its core, Transcension is a love story. Employing the classic model-boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl (and vice versa, of course)-Broderick tells his tale with humor, excitement and poignancy. Some really big ideas underlie the action: ubiquitous computing, cryonics, extreme life extension, microchip implants, Artificial Intelligence, and mind uploading, as well as the social idea of enclaves in which various levels of technology are either allowed or forbidden. But these ideas seem, for the most part, to be simply a background that many readers may ignore until very late in the book. Charmed by the story and having grown attached to the main characters, these readers will simply keeping turning pages to find out what happens next.
Astute readers, however, will not ignore the subtle signs dropped along the way like breadcrumbs leading through a forest of distracting events to a most wonderful conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Spoering on July 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Damien Broderick must be loaded with lots of witticisms and just plain tons of good old common sense because this novel is loaded with these things. And when I say 'common sense', this is not the type your typical good ole boy down the street has, but is instead a 'sense' of what is intrinsically true or false, not what the average person believes. Yeah, of course someday, perhaps 100-200 years from now, the ideas portrayed in this book will be widely accepted, but not yet, but this, to many people, is what science fiction is all about, to allow gifted and intelligent writers to let us see some of the possibilities in store for our future, good and bad, in an entertaining format. This novel does very well in terms of the above, giving us a glimpse of the future, perhaps unsettling to some with their conservative world-views.
Broderick writes here of a medium term future where an enclave of religious believers (who live in a primitive state and distrust technology) exist in a world that is largely secular. Science has indefinitely extended life spans and for the most part eliminated the barbarity of death, and mind uploading and biostasis has been used succesfully, along with many other things. Amanda of the modern world, who is just becoming an adult, Mathewmark of the religious encalve, and Abdel-Malek, a magistrate in the modern world, are the principle characters. How they interact with each other, considering their backgrounds, makes excellent reading, as plot and character development are first rate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Magnussen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Well, I seem to be in the minority, but this one just didn't do it for me, and not just because the plot appears to be recycled Arthur C. Clarke. Nor do I have any particular objection to godlike AIs (although this one seems to be just about omnipotent).

Rather, the problems lie in the style.

In the first place, the story is told pretty much in the first person, switching protagonist as events demand. These switches are clearly labelled, but often the story switches to third person as well, a mechanism I found clumsy.

Most irritating, though, is that the narrative of Amanda (one of the two main characters) is told almost entirely in her deferred-teenage slang, the salient feature of which is the omission of virtually all articles and prepositions, so that it resembles a sort of literally-translated Russian, only worse. I found it very, very wearing to read. Neither did I find Amanda herself a convincing character; it takes more to portray a musician and her concerns than listing a bunch of violin concertos accurately.

More interesting was the religious enclave that has voluntarily renounced technology, rather like the Amish; although they're referred to in the book, rather inaccurately, as Luddites (the original Luddites didn't have anything against technology per se, they just didn't want to be put out of work). A nice touch is that they don't realise that a lot of their environment is technologically altered anyway (like the obviously genetically engineered mule Ebeeneezer, who for me is the most sympathetic character in the book). I rather liked Matthewmark, as well.

But on balance, I can't recommend this. Don't take my word for it, read the other reviews.
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