Yesterday at the end of the day I was sitting in Greg Gottesman‘s office at Madrona catching up on email before dinner. Greg walked in with Ben Gilbert from Madrona Labs.
We started talking about sci-fi and Greg said “Are you into Ingress?” I responded “Is that the Google real-world / augmented reality / GPS game?” Greg said yes and I explained that I’d played with it a little when it first came out several years ago since a few friends in Boulder were into it but I lost track of it since there wasn’t an iOS app.
Greg pulled out his iPhone 6+ giant thing and started showing me. Probably not surprising to anyone, I grabbed my phone, downloaded it, created an account using the name the AIs have given me (“spikemachine”), and started doing random things.
Greg went down the hall and grabbed Brendan Ribera, also from Madrona Labs, who is a Level 8 superstar Ingres master-amazing-player. Within a few minutes we were on the Ingress Map looking at stuff that was going on around the world.
By this point my mind was blown and all I wanted to do was get from basic-beginner-newbie-no-clue-Ingre player to Level 2. With Brendan as my guide I quickly started to get the hang of it. A few hacks and XMPs later I was Level 2.
I asked Greg, Ben, and Branden if they had read Daemon by Daniel Suarez. None of them had heard of it so I went on a rant about Rick Klau’s discovery of the book and Leinad Zeraus, the evolution of this crazy thing into Daniel Suarez’s bestseller and the rest of my own wonderful romp through the writings of Daniel Suarez, William Herting, and Ramez Naam. It wasn’t merely my love of near-term sci-fi, but my discovery of what I believe is the core of the next generation of amazing near-term sci-fi writers. And, as a bonus to them having to listen to me, I bought each of them a Kindle version of Daemon.
Ingres completely feels like Daemon to me. There is plenty of chatter on the web about speculation of similarities and inspirations of Daemon on Ingress. I have no idea what the real story is, but since we are all suspending disbelief in both near-term sci-fi as well as Ingress, I’m going with the notion that they are linked even more than us puny humans realize.
This morning as I was walking through Sea-Tac on my way to my plane, I hacked a few portals, got a bunch of new stuff, and XMPed away whenever a resistance portal came into range. I’m still a total newbie, but I’m getting the hang of it. And yes, I’m part of the enlightenment as it offends me to the core of my soul that people would resist the future, although it seems to be more about smurfs vs. frogs.
Nope – I’m not talking about an Android phone. I’m talking about an amazing book titled Nexus by Ramez Naam.
Ramez sent me a pre-release version last month. I read it over my holiday in Mexico while I was recovering from kidney stone surgery. I saved it for the end when I was reasonable rested and cogent – it was amazing.
One of my favorite forms of science fiction is what I call “near term scifi.” It’s stuff written two to ten years in the future, usually linked back to current stuff. In Nexus‘ case, Ramez sets it 20+ years in the future, but I’m going to argue that he’s talking about stuff that’s within a decade. My guess is he chooses 2040-ish given the singularity dynamics – I prefer his post-human definition when man and machine merge into one.
Ramez combines science, technology, and a thriller in a very accessible and page turning way. If I ever decided to write fiction, my hope is that I could master the craft of scifi the way Ramez, William Hertling, and Daniel Suarez have. I put him firmly in their league.
If you are looking for a powerfully stimulating book to read over the holidays about where things are going, with a complex hero / protagonist / antagonist structure, plenty of twists and turns, and great scifi that intersects with our reality, go get a copy of Nexus right now.
If quadcopters can play a James Bond song, it’s not far fetched that tens of thousands of them could become an autonomously controlled weapon controlled by software that simulates the intelligence of weaver ants. Toss in some perfluorocarbon tracers to simulate a pheromone matrix, a bunch of guns, face recognition software, and bad guys and by page 267 about all you can say is “fuck!”
I love Daniel Suarez – I think he may be one of the best “near term science fiction writer” alive today. His previous two books – Daemon and Freedom(TM) were superb, but Kill Decision really nails it and takes you to a much more real, and completely terrifying place. He’s got new characters, better action and dialogue, deep science that is well explained, and very scary scenarios that play out in a “I can’t put this book down” way.
As I’ve said many times recently, the machines have already taken over and are just waiting patiently for us to catch up with them. I’m optimistic about the machines – they won’t emerge in a terrifying terminator future hell bent on exterminating us. Instead, we – the humans – are the problem. We’ve been trying to kill each other since the beginning of time and when the biological (in this case software based on weaver ants) merges with the machines (quadcopters with guns) bad shit happens. And once again the humans created all the bad shit.
As my first book of summer, this was a great place to start. I finished about half of it last night and Amy said I whined in the night with bad dreams, so it did it’s job. Daniel – wow – awesome.