THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 586, September 5, 2010
"Taxation is the fuel of war"
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Kevin MacArdry has written an extraordinary novel. The Last Trumpet Project begins with ordinary people working mischief in the ordinary world, not all that different from the world of today. As the action develops, it moves into the cyberverse, a concatenation of many virtual realities hosted on server systems all over the globe. We learn that the fantasy role playing games of today are among the many ancestors of virtual realities of the future, so there is a clear and comprehensible line of descent from the past into the future.
That future is critically significant because at its core, The Last Trumpet Project is a novel about the Singularity. And it is a very interesting "take" on the nature of reality, as well as what may be expected of human experience approaching the Singularity. Even so, it manages to be an intensely satisfying read maintaining much of the mystery of life beyond the Singularity. In addition to mysteries, it has action, adventure, love, beauty, and philosophy all bound together in 510 pages of excellent prose.
It gives nothing away to mention, as the author does in the first chapter, that the book's title is about a project that takes centre stage in the story. That project is, simply put, to bring the dead back to life. But to understand how that could possibly work, you have to understand what is meant by "life" in the story.
Much of the tale hangs on the fact that there are Full Singulatarians or "Full Sings" who have given up corporeal bodies to exist full time in the cyberverse. In order to join them there, on a reasonably level playing field, humans can have nanotechnological implants that assist vastly in the storage and analysis of data. Joining the Full Sings in cyberspace are artificial intelligence systems which for the most part seem to be upgraded expert systems of recent years with personalities. The personal assistants provided by these AI systems are not entirely autonomous, since they are programmed to be useful to their owner operators.
Full immersion tanks allow a human to spend considerable time in virtuality while their nanotech implants stimulate their muscles, scavenge oxygen out of the air, and service all of their body cells, so that eating and evacuating aren't essential bodily functions any more. Similarly, this future has molecular manufacturing systems which allow Full Sings to "instantiate" into a human-like body, or into one with certain enhancements.
So, of course, with all these virtual worlds operating simultaneously, there is an extensive virtual economy. You'll find if you explore today's World of Warcraft and Second Life and other early stage virtual realities that there is money and there are economic choices. Extend that by billions of times over to account for many virtual realities popular at various times for nearly every human on Earth, plus forty years of population growth, and you can grasp some part of the economic scale involved.
Naturally, one of the things the brilliant and nanotech-enhanced people of the story want to accomplish is to bring back their dead playmates of the recent past. And, indeed, chapter one is all about the resurrection of one such fellow. The protagonists build a device capable of thoroughly scanning information from the recent past and use it to perform a Full Sing upload scan of the physical and mental "state" of their friend Craig Stenson. Craig had died in an earthquake related auto accident when a highway overpass collapsed on his car. Moments before this happens, the Cronus Scanner captures his information. He is then interviewed to find out if he's agreeable to living as a Full Sing in a virtuality, roughly six years after his death. As you might surmise, he agrees to this proposal.
Now imagine the same deal offered to hundreds of thousands of persons. Imagine the scanner able to capture information going back many decades into the past, so that literally billions of personalities might be rescued from death. And imagine what the reaction of religious leaders to these developments would be. Kevin MacArdry has done an excellent job, not only imagining these things for you, but also describing them to you.
When I say the prose is excellent, I mean that the characters are well written, the descriptions of them are sufficiently rapid that one doesn't lose the thread of action, the place settings are described promptly and effectively, and the prose doesn't bog down. I've read thousands of novels, mostly in the science fiction genre, and know quite a bit about prose. It is not idle banter when I say the prose here is excellent. In fact, it is much improved in the year since I saw an early draft of this novel.
Should I tell you of the characters, their plights, their conflicts, the Romeo and the Juliet of this novel? I don't think that's necessary. Certainly there are characters of interest here, with beauty and intrepidity, some with guile, others with wisdom. There are ideas, as well, about the future, how it relates to our present, and what we may expect of it. But there is also a tale of adventure, of good people doing what they think is right, of evil people taking advantage of others for their own purposes, of baffled people getting through life as best they may. And I think you'd enjoy that adventure story the more so if I leave you to it without spoiling the developments.
It adds up to a vision. A vision of the future as it may develop, a vision of humans cooperating in previously unconceived ways, a vision of not just one alternate reality, not just one virtual reality, but thousands of them. Worlds within without end, and the exploration of the galaxy, too. You should take a look.
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