It all begins next year in California. A maladjusted computer industry billionaire and a somewhat crazy US President initiate a radical transformation of the world through sentient nanotechnology; sort of the equivalent of biological artificial intelligence. At first they succeed, but their plans are reversed by Chu, an autistic boy. The next time it isn’t so easy to stop them. Most of the story takes place in a world after a heretofore unimaginable transformation, where all the things look the same but all the people are different (they’re able to read each others’ minds, for starters). Travel to and from other nearby worlds in the quantum universe is possible, so now our world is visited by giant humanoids from another quantum universe, and some of them mean to tidy up the mess we’ve made. Or maybe just run things.
For more information visit the Rudy Rucker website.
357 pages, with a reading time of ~5.5 hours (89,269 words), and first published in 2007. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Two boys walked down the beach, deep in conversation. Seventeen-year-old Jeff Luty was carrying a carbon-fiber pipe rocket. His best friend, Carlos Tucay, was carrying the launch rod and a cheap bottle of Mieux champagne. Gangly Jeff was a head taller than Carlos.
“We’re unobservable now,” said Jeff, looking back down the sand. It was twilight on a clear New Year’s Day in Stinson Beach, California. Jeff ‘s mother had rented a cheap cottage in order to get out of their cramped South San Francisco apartment for the holiday, and Carlos had come along. Jeff ‘s mother didn’t like it when the boys fired off their homemade rockets; so Jeff had promised her that he and Carlos wouldn’t bring one. But of course they had.
“Our flying beetle,” said Carlos with his ready grin. “Your program says it’ll go how high? Tell me again, Jeff. I love hearing it.”
“A mile,” said Jeff, hefting the heavy gadget. “Equals one thousand, six hundred and nine-point-three-four-four meters. That’s why we measured out the fuel in milligrams.”
“As if this beast is gonna act like your computer simulation,” laughed Carlos, patting the thick rocket’s side. “Yeek!” The rocket’s tip was a streamlined plastic cone with a few thousand homegrown nanochips inside. The rocket’s sides were adorned with fanciful sheet metal fins and a narrow metal pipe that served as a launch lug. Carlos had painted the rocket to resemble an iridescent blue-green beetle with toothy jaws and folded spiky legs.
“We’re lucky we didn’t blow up your mom’s house when we were casting the motor,” said Jeff. “A kilogram of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and powdered magnesium metal mixed into epoxy binder, whoa.” He hefted the rocket, peering up the beetle’s butt at the glittering, rubbery fuel. The carbon-fiber tube was stuffed like a sausage casing.
“Here’s to Lu-Tuc Space Tech!” said Carlos, peeling the foil off the champagne cork. He’d liberated one of the bottles that Jeff ‘s mother was using to make mimosas for herself and her boyfriend and Jeff ‘s older sisters.
“Lu-Tuc forever,” echoed Jeff. The boys dreamed of starting a company some day. “It’ll be awesome to track our nanochips across the sky,” Jeff continued. “Each one of them has a global positioning unit and a broadcast antenna.”
“They do so much,” marveled Carlos.
“And I grew them like yeast,” said Jeff. “In the right environment these cute little guys can self-assemble. If you know the dark secrets of robobiohackery, that is. And if you have the knack.” He waggled his long, knobby fingers. His nails were bitten to the quick.
“You’re totally sure they’re not gonna start reproducing themselves in the air?” said Carlos, working his thumbs against the champagne cork. “We don’t want Lu-Tuc turning the world into rainbow goo.”
“That won’t happen yet,” said Jeff and giggled. “Dammit.”
“You’re sick,” said Carlos, meaning this as praise. The cork popped loose, arcing high across the beach to meet its racing shadow.
It was Carlos’s turn to giggle as the foam gushed over his hands. He took a swig and offered the bottle to Jeff. Jeff waved him off, intent on his future dreams.
“I see an astronomically large cloud of self-reproducing nanobots in orbit around the sun,” said Jeff. “They’ll feed on space dust and solar energy and carry out calculations too vast for earthbound machines.”
“So that’s what self-reproducing nanomachines are good for,” said Carlos.
“I’m gonna call them nants,” said Jeff. “You like that?”
“Beautiful,” said Carlos, jamming the launch rod into the sand a few meters above the waterline. “I claim this kingdom for the nants.”
Jeff slid the rocket down over the launch rod, threading the rod through the five-inch metal tube glued to the rocket’s side. He stuck an igniter wire into the molded engine, secured the wire with wadding, and attached the wire’s loose ends to the ignition unit: a little box with an antenna.
“The National Association of Rocketry says we should back off seven hundred feet now,” said Jeff, checking over their handiwork one last time.
“Bogus,” said Carlos. “I want to watch our big beetle go throbbing into the air. We’ll get behind that dune here and peek.”
“Affirmative,” said Jeff.
The boys settled onto the lee slope of a low dune and inched up until they could peer over the crest at the gaudy fat tube. Carlos dug a little hole in the sand to steady the champagne bottle. Jeff took out his cell phone. The launch program was idling on the screen, cycling through a series of clock and map displays.
“You can really see the jetliners on that blue map?” asked Carlos, his handsome face gilded by the setting sun.
“You bet. Good thing, too. We’ll squirt up our rocket when there’s a gap in the traffic. Like a bum scuttling across a freeway.”
“What’s the cluster of red dots on that next map?”