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To transcend means to go beyond - to move past the limits of what is possible and into the wider realms of what might be. It's something we do every time we read science fiction, and this is especially true of Damien Broderick's recent novel Transcension.
For many years now writers like Broderick and Vernor Vinge have been talking about the "Spike" or "Singularity" which may occur whenever accelerating technological progress reaches a point where it moves not only beyond our understanding but beyond the possibilities inherent in this merely physical universe. It's Broderick's contention that we may reach this point within 50 to 100 years' time.
But what of those who are left behind? Not everyone is going to want to become some kind of virtual reality computer analog running on atomic level hypercomputers running in nanodimensional quantum space. In Transcension, Broderick ponders on the possibility of calling a halt to progress and what kind of world - and what kind of people - would result.
The two main characters are called MathewMark and Amanda. MathewMark is the product of a simple agrarian society who have turned against technology as the machinery of the devil. Amanda is a spoiled young pender - a teenager in her late twenties, hormonally suspended just short of adolescence. Their worlds collide quite literally when a prank goes horribly wrong.
Amanda and her friend Vikram attempt to achieve the status of Mall Gods by hitching an illegal and dangerous ride on a maglev freighter which runs in a tunnel under the preserve where MathewMark and his folk live. When things go wrong, Vikram is dead and MathewMark is a brain damaged cripple, unable to function without the implantation of a computer chip in his head - a chip that his people reject as an unholy abomination.
As the plot unfolds we see the threats Amanda's advanced, technological world poses to MathewMark's simple closed community, and we begin to see shadows of an intrusion of something great, vast, and outside the realms of even the high tech possibility of Amanda's world. For as advanced as they seem, these people live in a state of technological Relinquishment - rejecting many of the more radical possibilities of really advanced tech. On both levels, outside forces threaten with plans to redevelop the valuable real estate that the low-techs squat on, plans that may just involve the disassembly of the Earth and the quenching of the Sun.
Transcension is a great book with fast paced action and wry humor. It may make you think. Recommended.
I liked this, what else should I try?
You should take a look at Broderick's earlier work. I particularly enjoyed his short story anthology Striped Holes, although this may be hard to come by as it's a few years old now. Fans of Broderick will like the work of Vernor Vings - I recommend The Peace War, Marooned in Real Time, A Fire Upon the Deep, and A Deepness in the Sky. Mindblowing stuff.
Transcension also touches upon the Fermi Paradox - the quandary that ponders the reason why, if aliens exist, we see no visible evidence of them in the stars. According to Broderick it may be that they have all transcended and left this universe. Other interesting answers are explored in the Manifold sequence by Stephen Baxter, which comprises of Time, Space, Origin, and Phase Space. Also recommended.
Is there anything like this in Wyvern's Library?
Not really. This is ultra high-tech philosophical Hard SF, the rare and much admired genre of the science and technology crowd in the SF ghetto. It's not the kind of stuff much written by neophytes and dabblers because it requires a deep understanding of science. Do you know of anyone writing hard SF in Wyvern's? Please write and tell me!
Author: Damien Broderick