Neptune’s Brood

The souk is a public space. Unless you pay up for a pricey privacy filter, every move you make is fodder for a thousand behavioral search engines, which bombard you with stimuli and monitor your autonomic responses in order to dynamically evolve more attractive ads. Images of desire bounce off blank surfaces for your eyes only, ghostly haptic fingertips run across your skin, ghostly lascivious offers beam right inside your ears. Are we getting hotter? Colder? Does this make you feel good? I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by excessive filtering. But I wasn’t used to the naked hard selling: My earlier life hadn’t prepared me for it, and the ads made me feel bilious and love-stricken, invaded and debauched by a coldly mechanical lust for whatever fetish the desire machines were pushing at their victims at any given instant. The mindless persistence with which the adbots attempted to coax the life-money from their targets was disturbing. Though I hadn’t been on Taj long, I had already learned to hate the sensation. The soul-sickening sense of need ebbed and faded from moment to moment as I moved from one hidden persuader’s cell to the next, leaving me feeling vulnerable and friendless. Alienated? Friend-lorn? Desirous of luxurious foods or eager prostitutes? We can torment and titillate until you pay for sweet release  .  .  .


– Stross, Charles. Neptune’s Brood


Who said Sci-fi isn’t what it used to be any more ? I’m not a huge fan of the epic Space Opera with star ships exploiting loop holes in relativity and colonizing the galaxy. Well, no, not really. Three quarters of the way through writing that line, I figured I was wrong. Some of the best Sci-fi I’ve read ignores relativity completely. Foundation, Enders Game come to mind.

I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that extrapolating (and maybe even exaggerating) current tech / pop-culture trends (AIs that do some things very well, Augmented Reality, Online Advertising, Consumerism, Global Warming, Growing Internet Usage, DRM) and predicting what they might look like in our future makes for incredibly entertaining reads. And Charlie Stross is a master at this.


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