Feersum Endjinn by Iain Banks

Last year I start to read Wasp Factory by Iain Banks but I could not finish it: too bleak, too violent, too disturbing.  But I saw a mention of Feersum Endjinn somewhere, and so requested it through interlibrary loan.  What a great book.  Four narratives overlapping a central event in the far future where the humans who remained on Earth after the singularity have renounced AI’s and permanent virtuality, and so exist in “base reality” where they are essentially quasi-immortal since their brains are linked through implants in continuous time to a giant database (the crypt) and so it they die they can be restarted at last moment of consciousness.  Like Robert Reed’s Greatship.  Anyway, Earth is under threat.  One narrative is a “chief scientist” and the rulers, another a recently deceased member of the ruling class who exists only in the crypt, another the asura, a program that emerges from the crypt as a failsafe, and finally Bascule, written in phonetic Dickensian-English.  The four narratives come together in a reasonably satisfying way (it is a novel, so things have to be tidied up at the end).  The Bascule narrative is what makes the novel special.  The phonetic English forces the reader to slow down.  I found I could only read one section at a sitting.  So Banks manipulates reader time, which is a nice and relevant effect.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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