I wrote this review in May 2017 at GoodReads. I thought it’s a good idea to transfer it to this blog as part of the other KSR book reviews.
Water, water everywhere – do you want an impression how your neighborhood might look like?
You can find a nice projection here. Or in the novel at hand:
What a beautiful cover art – drowned Lower Manhattan, in the background Upper Manhattan with super-skyscrapers and balloons, skybridges all over.
KSR structures this novel similarly to his Mars trilogy: A handful of POVs plus one stream-of-consciousness POV (“the citizen”). POVs come from different parts of society but live together in the Met.
One of the POVs, trader Franklin, would give a villain in other novels. But here, he is hilarious. I guess, that people who don’t like to read about shorts and longs will need to read a different book. But this is yummy: he invented a financial index, linked it to Roman law of intertidal being public land. He knew that it will be a bubble, invented the index, hedged against it. Now, the bubble is going to pop. But how does he know about Margaret Hammilton – is that KSR’s own voice? Speaking of economy and trading, KSR failed to build a correct projection, they just feel exactly the same as business is done today. Only, that it won’t in my opinion for two reasons: first, there is A.I., and second there are blockchains (distributed ledgers) with smart contracts – a Chicago or Shanghai based stock exchange simply won’t exist anymore in over a hundred years. These two technologies will completely disrupt our economy as known today, and KSR didn’t do anything to get it into his setting. In a novel so heavily focusing on economics (besides of being a great CliFi), this should have been done better than just presenting a kind of contemporary economic thriller with a Venetian background.
There is another POV called “the citizen” which probably many readers won’t like at all, because it is simply info-dumping. KSR gets snarky and lets the POV get metafictitious: “know that any more expository rants, any more info dumps … will be printed in red ink to warn you to skip them (not)”. A third POV are really two hackers who infodump by hallucinating dialogues on literary like Waiting for Godot or the Ilias. This is another field where KSR didn’t get his projections correct, because there simply won’t exist a single programming language which will exist in the known form for the next 120 years. But I liked his neologisms, like intergender “amphibiguity”, or “delanyden”.
The other POVs where really great. Most of all, New York as the main protagonist with the Met tower as a focus.
So, setting (Venetian New York) lovely, future projection unrealistic in parts, plot too thin, halve of the POVs really nice.
KSR did one thing absolutely great – the CliFi in New York – while neglecting other essential novelization elements.
I recommend this book to readers who can ignore these shortcomings.
If you’re interested in other works by KSR, I’ve some reviews up: