- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1ST edition (2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765334224
- ISBN-13: 978-0765334220
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 89 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,104,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Incrementalists Hardcover – September 24, 2013
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*Starred Review* A secret society has existed for millennia, operating under the surface of society. The Incrementalists are improving the world by making slight adjustments that make human existence a bit better than it might have been. During the Civil War, they influenced one of General Grant’s right-hand men so that he would keep Grant from succumbing to his affection for alcohol. They had a hand in the invention of the MP3 format, and they practically invented Robin Hood. But now they have a major problem on their hands. One of their own, who recently died, might have been murdered, and the woman who was given her memories paradoxically doesn’t seem to be able to remember her. Even worse, it looks like the dead woman has somehow manipulated the Incrementalists (or, to be more precise, Phil, who has loved her for centuries) into putting her memories into a very specific young woman for a very specific and quite troubling, possibly catastrophic, reason. It’s difficult to categorize this imaginative new novel from established sf/fantasy novelist Brust and newcomer White. It’s not quite a comedy, but bits of it are quite funny. It’s a fantasy, to be sure, but it’s grounded in today’s world and references real historical events. It’s cleverly constructed, populated with characters readers will enjoy hanging out with, and packed with twists and nifty surprises. If you have to call it something, call it genius at work. --David Pitt
“Spare, dangerous, strangely whimsical, damn fine. Read this. It's good.” ―Elizabeth Bear on The Incrementalists
“Powerful, manipulative and yet oh-so-very-human, the Incrementalists are my favorite secret society ever. This book is the perfect introduction to these imperfect history makers, with Brust and White as charming, knowing guides to their world.” ―John Scalzi on The Incrementalists
“Delightful, exciting, and sometimes brilliant, Steven Brust is the latest in a line of great Hungarian writers, which (I have no doubt) includes Alexandre Dumas, C. S. Forester, Mark Twain, and the author of the juciest bits of the Old Testament.” ―Neil Gaiman
“Steven Brust might just be America's best fantasy writer.” ―Tad Williams
“As always, Brust invests Vlad with the panache of a Dumas musketeer and the colloquial voice of one of Zelazny's Amber heroes. This is a rousing adventure with enough humor, action and sneaky plot twists to please newcomers as well as longtime series fans.” ―Publishers Weekly on Dragon
“Steven Brust, in a genre that's mostly done by the numbers these days, maintains a hipster charm and an originality of mind.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer on Agyar
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To quote from Cory Doctrow's review: "On one level, this is a zippy, noirish story about a fractious criminal conspiracy in modern-day Las Vegas. There are murders and attempted murders, chase scenes, loud arguments and sneaky scheming. But on another level, it's a book about what duty the human race owes to itself, and what human beings owe to one another, a profound philosophical book about the theory of history, the practice of user-experience design, networked politics, and the role of ritual and convention in binding us together"
It seems that there have always been "incrementalists" among us. A very small group who have access to a mental world where memories can be "seeded" and shared from person to person and from life to life. Incrementalists cheat death by seeding the memory and personalities of their members who have died into prospects, who either acquire the personality and identity of the old member (the "primary") or fight off the take-over and become the new primary until they eventually lose the battle of wills in some future life.
Incrementalists are dedicated to changing the human condition in small and barely observable ways by processes that amount to "neuro-linguistic programming." They've been at it for a long time, never throwing the long bomb of a sudden and dramatic change, and never being the great person of history (unless such a thing happened in the deep time before earliest recorded history.)
The book opens with a crisis. Celeste has died and her "stub" has been "spiked" into the willing new prospect Rene, but it seems that Celeste has disappeared, neither dominating Rene or being incorporated into her. This causes a leadership crisis in the team of the 5 oldest Incrementalists, aka "Salt," which brings them together to address the issue. Further it seems that Celeste has somehow found a way to keep her personality integrated and independent without a body in the mental world they call the "Garden."
Wooh! Getting through that sounded....complicated.
I was tantalized by the idea of immortals living through a succession of lives through "seconds." I was confused by the Garden and how it worked. I was frustrated by the fact that we don't get nearly the back-story on where the Incrementalists came from or what they've done in the past. In fact, if you are going to read this story, it is probably a good idea to read the short story Fireworks in the Rain: A Tor.Com Original, which describes "meddling" - and shows how Phil goes about it while Rene is out of town - but leaves the reader wondering about the rest of the Incrementalist paradigm, which this story provides.
The story was generally entertaining and I enjoyed reading it. I found the insta-love between Rene and Phil - the protagonist in "Fireworks in the Rain" - to be a bit "over the top." I also wanted to seem more meddling in history. I liked the personalities of these immortals with their various interests and aptitudes; in some ways it reminded me of Alfred Bester's "The Computer Connection."
I look forward to the next installment where, perhaps, we can get on with the business of telling the Incrementalist story.
Even after that preparation, I was still blown away by the concept, story, & character development. Despite the lack of any real action, this novel moves along, lagging only in a couple of scenes. I found the characters engaging and believable.
WARNING: Drageria fans (Vlad novels & Kharravan Romances, + Broken Down Palace) - THIS IS NOT AN ACTION NOVEL. The authorial voice is very like that of "Cowbow Feng's ..." mixed with "The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars". I will be very pleased if we get another novel out of this universe.
All others- hopefully discerning readers- should give this book a chance. Smart, sharp, and the perfect balance between wit and emotion.
Most recent customer reviews
Brust has a tendency to be confusing and this book is no exception.Read more