I really enjoy John C. Wright’s work. He makes me feel smarter than I am. I am no mathematician, nor have any desire to be, but his words are not insulting. It’s the sort that, if you were to walk into a conversation and say, yep, that’s certainly mathematics, nodding wisely. But it all makes sense because this is a book about post humanity and hyper-intelligence. The book is worth the time. I’m going to talk about main themes, and some thoughts I had about the Post-humanity, which I will later expound upon in another post. This isn’t a true review, however, and more akin to a ramble about things I found interesting, I hope you enjoy anyway.
Post-humanity is the next evolutionary step. Whether you are on my end, which promotes the move to transhumanism via technology or the view in Count to a Trillion of becoming hyper-intelligent and being able to make accurate, massive, jumps of logical intuition. This version seems not to be true post-humanity, or rather simply a smarter version of ourselves, improving on tools we always have had. Should a dog be smart, and breed true that intelligence, I don’t think it deserves to be a ‘post-doggy’. If it starts speaking, then all I’d do is treat it with wonderment and respect, but still a dog. The same with the main character, Menelaus Montrose, who takes an intelligence boosting serum and becomes mad from all he knows. Then there is Rania, who is designed from birth (and perhaps owns the title of Post-human better) to be like Menelaus. And Ximen Del Azarchel, who is simply one of the smartest men in the room, who brings his own desire to change the evolution of humanity. This all comes together for a strong statement against, say, the singularity, benevolent alien intelligences and one world government managed by a scientist elite (technocracy).
Maybe the point of the Post humanity isn’t just the intelligence, but the stars themselves, which tie into everything said, and done, in the end.
Menelaus is a gunslinging lawyer/duelist who is also very, very smart. He joins a mission to an antimatter star, which should produce nearly limitless power to earth, once they get it there. But there’s one more thing. A strange Monument that has thousands of lines of data in a language that no human can fully read… yet. Keep in mind, most of this book is in the description of the world, in different times. The description of a modern Dark Age was absolutely fascinating. The scientist elite in Georgian (?) and other antique styles later on didn’t grip me as well, but it was, all in all, a fantastic stage setting for the plot, which is about how to subvert a coming fleet of who knows what from the Hyades cluster.
I was frightened that there wouldn’t be a duel at dawn at the end, but my fears were pointless, John C. Wright wouldn’t do a man wrong in that way.
About a third of the way into the story we are introduced to a supreme machine intelligence, that is, the Iron Ghost. It’s stated to be patterned after a mind and made post human, but like all the other post humans, it just strikes me that he’s just smarter than the rest, which I think shouldn’t count at all. He’s a machine that someone augmented, then gave the capacity to make those super-human leaps in logic necessary. Keep in mind, though, those leaps are accurate, and logically presented as accurate in a believable manner. Keep in mind, the villain at the end at the DRAMATIC DUEL AT DAWN (duh duh DUH!) is more post human than any of the heroes. He sacrifices parts of his humanity and body to fight the duel and have more than a chance at winning. It isn’t his intelligence that makes him Post-Human, it’s the rest of it, the sacrifice of things inside every man that just can’t be faked, and is so easily lost.
But they are all human, because they cannot deny their human appetites.
About space travel. There is something romantic about the Solar Sail type space craft. Whether it’s from the Mote or to an antimatter star, it’s a decent ship for long distances, and is always an excellent choice. Though I favor the Star Wars style vessels that pepper Science Fiction (big, impressive, and with a small thermal exhaust port…) the Solar sail remains my second favorite. It’s use in the story, of a great laser slowing down the vessel, is remarkably similar to how the Moties used the laser to send the vessel forward, then brake it upon the solar winds and radiation naturally found when approaching a star system.
Count to a Trillion is one of the best red blooded sci-fi novels I’ve read in a long time. John C. Wright continues to impress me, even if I do get lost at the math jargon thrown around like a hurricane. I will be disappointed if he does not get a Hugo for Awake in the Night Land. I’ll be reading the sequel, The Hermetic Millenia (after the Scientist King’s government) and talking about it in turn.