Posted by: GravatarWon'tDeleteMyAccount | August 31, 2008

John Sundman: Acts of the Apostles



Last week, I wrote about a book in which Cthulhu rises from the depths to be fought off by Jack Kerouac, and the requisite ability to suspend one’s disbelief in order to enjoy such a book. Now, for me, that’s actually an easier feat than suspending my disbelief for this week’s book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s eminently more plausible: advances in technology could indeed lead to dangerous weapons being used by shadowy organizations (see: “manhattan project“). Yet the problem with writing a work such as this is that it tries to maintain a level of realism that Cthulhu-mythos books know they can’t get away with.

To avoid too many spoilers, let’s use another famous book for an example, one involving a code, by a certain Leonardo from a little town in Tuscany. Certainly, many people found this to be a more believable scenario than R’lyeh rising from the deep. I think this is evidenced by the number of absurd documentaries on the “real” secrets of the grail, and tours to see the sights from the book. (On a side note, there’s a lovely little chapel of the Knights Templar I saw in Laon when I went there to see the cathedral, but I digress).

For me, however, it’s easier to take one large break from reality and run with it than to try to imagine that in -this- reality (the one in which I’m happily living and in which consequently my general expectations about everything apply) there’s a massive conspiracy within the catholic church to hide the fact that Jesus’ great-great-great-great-etc. granddaughter’s alive and well.

But hey, that could be just me. Judging by the number of people that bought the aforesaid book, it may well outnumber the sales of every Cthulhu-mythos book ever made combined. Maybe not, but I bet it’d be close.

But back to “Acts of the Apostles,” Sundman’s Kurzweilian-conspiracy novel. This man either has a stunning grasp of both chip design and biomechanics, or else he’s got a hell of a gift with the ol’ BS. It’s a finely-crafted thriller that keeps things interesting for the duration, and when all is said and done, he does actually do a good job with the conspiracy theories. Sadly he wrote it before 9/11, so he couldn’t tie in that or the current Iraq civil war (sorry, I think the preferred terms are “failed state” and “insurgency”), but he does manage to squeeze in everything from Saddam Hussein to Gulf War Syndrome to AIDS in a single overarching theory, which in itself is quite a feat.

Following the falling-apart life of software designer Nick Aubrey, the novel bounces between Massachusetts, California, and Switzerland, charting the course of the 1990s and its relation to the rapid pace of technological advancement. While it may anticipate the fusion of man and machine just a little prematurely (Ray Kurzweil is thinking 2050 at this point), if you like technological thrillers and fear the coming singularity, this is the book for you.

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Acts of the Apostles is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial license and can be downloaded in .pdf form at wetmachine.com or bought in a form more likely to survive the coming technological apocalypse here.

Next week, a treat: Very Short Stories

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