"The human race has extended itself into the far reaches of our solor system - and, in doing so, has developed into something remarkable and diverse and perhaps transcendent. The inner system of the Met - with its worlds connected by a vast living network of cables - is supported by the repression and enslavement of humanity's progeny, nanatechnological artificial intelligences - beings whom the tyrant Ames has declared non-human. There is tolerance and sanctuary in the outer system beyond the Jovian frontier. Yet few of the oppressed ever make it past the dictator's well-patrolled boundaries." "But the longing for freedom cannot be denied, whatever the risk." "A priest of of the mystical religion called the Greentree Way senses catastrophe approaching. A vision foretells that the future of our bitterly divided solor system rests in the hands of a mysterious man of destiny and doom who has vanished into the backwater of the Met in search of his lost love. But the priest is not the only one who grasps this man's importance.
Hugo Award nominee Daniel (Earthling and Warpath) projects a complex, mind-stretching future in his third SF novel, a cross between Bruce Sterling and Doc Smith that teems with vivid characters and surprising action. A thousand years from now, humans use omnipresent nano-matter, "grist," to engineer nonhuman forms for themselves and house their disembodied electronic consciousnesses. Tension has developed between two centers of power. On one side are the inner planets, knit together by massive cables and ruled by a monomaniacal dictator who is sure he knows what's best for everyone. On the other are the inhabitants of the outer planets and the massive spaceships/beings that are beginning to visit the stars. This latter group values diversity and freedom, but decentralization puts it at a disadvantage when the dictator plots to gain total control. As the preparations toward a system-wide civil war gather momentum, the vocabulary and relationships that at first seemed confusing suddenly become simply part of the onrushing action. The novel's only real drawback is that it breaks off early in the war, just as the two sides have squared off against each other. Keeping any moralizing tendencies nicely in check, Daniel seems to want to create an epic vision of humanity. If he can finish the story with the intelligence and energy he shows here, he may achieve that goal. Agent, John Ware Literary Agency. (Apr. 20) Forecast: With first serial rights sold to Asimov's Magazine, a plug from Greg Bear and credentials that include producer of the Seeing Ear Theater for scifi.com and host of a monthly radio show on New York's WBAI, Daniel should reach readers hungry for challenging, sophisticated science fiction. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Metaplanetary by Tony Daniel
Midnight Standard at the Westway Diner
Standing over all creation a doubt-ridden priest took a piss.
He shook himself, looked between his feet at the stars, then tabbed his pants closed. He flushed the toilet and centrifugal force took care of the rest.
Father Andre Sud walked back to his table in the Westway Diner. He padded over the living fire of the plenum, the abyss -- all of it -- and hardly noticed. Even though this place was special to him, it was really just another caf ' with a see-through floor -- a window as thin as paper and as hard as diamond. Dime a dozen as they used to say a thousand years ago. The luciferan sign at the entrance said FREE DELIVERY in Basis. The sign under it said OPEN 24 HRS. This sign was unlit. The place will close, eventually.
The priest sat down and stirred his black tea. He read the sign, backward, and wondered if the words he spoke when he spoke sounded anything like English used to. Hard to tell with the grist patch in his head.
Everybody understands one another on a general level these days, Andre Sud thought. Approximately more or less they know what you mean.
There was a dull, greasy gleam to the napkin holder. The saltshaker was half-full. The laminate surface of the table was worn through where the plates usually sat. The particle board underneath was soggy. There was free-floating grist that sparkled like mica within the wood: used-to-be-cleaning-grist, entirely shorn from the restaurant's controlling algorithm and nothing to do but shine. Like the enlightened pilgrim of the Greentree Way was supposed to do, Andre thought. Become shorn and brilliant.
And what will you have with that hamburger
Grist. Nada y grist. Grist y nada.
I am going through a depression, Andre reminded himself I am even considering leaving the priesthood.
Andre's convert portion spoke through Andre's pellicle -- the microscopic, algorithmic part of him that was spread through his body and spread out in the general vicinity. The convert spoke as if from a long way off.
[This happens every winter. And lately with the insomnia. Cut it out with the nada y nada. Everything's physical, don't you know.]
[Except for you,] Andre thought back.
He usually imagined the convert that inhabited his pellicle as a little cloud of algebra symbols that followed him around like mosquitoes. In truth it was normally invisible, of course. For most people, the tripartite division of the human personality into aspect, convert, and pellicle was a completely unconscious affair. People did not "talk" to their convert portion as Andre was able to do any more than the conceptual part of a single brain would talk to the logical part on a conscious level. But Andre had trained himself to notice the partitions in his mentality. It was one of the things a Greentree shaman learned in seminary: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were inside as well as "up there." The biology begat the mentality, and the two communicated by means of the grist pellicle, the technological equivalent of "the Holy Ghost." This division of personhood was always expressed both psychologically, technologically, and spiritually. To understand oneself, one must understand the multiplicity, as well as the unity, of his personality.