21 December 2007

Exhilarating SF tour de force---brings "cyberpunk" from the neck down

Moldies & meatbops: Three *ware novels : Software ; Wetware ; Freeware
Rudy Rucker
Doubleday Direct, 1997

This volume collects three of the four novels in Rudy Rucker's intellectually stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable *Ware series: Software, Wetware, and Freeware. The arc of these three novels carries the reader from the dawn of the 21st century, when humanity's lunar robots reprogrammed themselves for freedom and consciousness, to the middle of the century, the radical future of artificial life, and beyond. In Rucker's mostly optimistic vision of the near-future, robots (from the Czech word for "slave", remember) give way to self-directing boppers (and human-dominated asimovs), who in turn pave the way for the quasi-organic moldies, who themselves become the staging ground for something far more transcendent. Meanwhile, humanity tries as best it can to keep pace with its new neighbors while inadvertently catalyzing their evolution from time to time. An exhilarating intellectual romp!

Rucker's novels work on so many levels that it beggars description. His intellectual and philosophical speculations about the nature of conscious life itself provide the skeleton, his joycean linguistic inventiveness enrobes his fresh ideas in strange flesh, and his sheer joy at being embodied succeeds both in animating his creation and in bringing the genre of science fiction, which has long been decidedly cognitively top-heavy, from the neck down. This is science fiction for people who love the raw stickiness and smelliness of physical existence. Moldies and Meatbops, or, more properly, the novels collected therein, easily ranks as Rucker's SF masterpiece.

(This review was originally written on September 4, 2006.)

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