4.2 out of 5 Stars
Soft machine futurist Rudy Rucker—known primarily for his gooey computer AIs that slide, bend and excrete—has given us yet another sloppy robotic vision of the future in his new novel(?) "Saucer Wisdom".Why there’s a question mark after novel is that I’m not quite sure what’s real and what’s not in Rucker’s entertaining work. First, the main character in the novel is named "Rudy Rucker". He also alleges that his future speculations are based on conversations with a real (?) UFO abductee "Frank Shook", not his real name by the way. No, I don't why you would create a fake name for a strictly "imaginary" character. Why bother.
You know, and this is the strange thing about the book, there really might be somebody with the pseudonym of Frank Shook. Rucker, who just happens to be a real scientist, may have been called in to interpret what Frank saw in scientific terms. I just don't know.
I tend to lean more on the pure fiction side of the fence because his future exploration is nothing you can pin down. Sure, Frank can predict biotech marvels, but how about whether Microsoft's stock will go up, or what those lottery numbers are going to be. How about the next prez?
I interpret the book as an interesting exploration of the future which uses fictional narrative devices. Rucker himself calls his own genre of work "Transrealism", which he defines as taking real events in his own life and simply exaggerating them. Conventional fiction means you divorce your wife. Transrealist fiction means you divorce your wife, have her cloned at a younger age, and are then swept up into intergalactic war. Thus, Rucker's wacky brand of science fiction is born.
Just to synopsize the novel (?) a bit, it involves Rucker's conversations with Shook, alleged UFO abductee, and his time traveling exploits with the aliens who kidnap him. There's a very long timeline created, from 2030 which begins with piezoplastic and ends at 4004 with teleportation. It's also madly and badly illustrated (more than two dozen scrawly pictures) by Rucker who gives us recreations of "Kitchen Sluggies" and "Boring Worldlines and Gnarly Worldlines". Reminds me a lot of the Vonnegut illustrations in Breakfast of Champions and other books. Primitive, almost childlike, but very effective. Kind of like science comics drawn by Simpsons Muse Matt Groening.
Like Vonnegut, it proves to be an easy, amiable read. But it's still a daunting intellectual achievement. How many "novels" do you know have glossaries? Rucker, as always, proves to be a fount of ideas.
Here's just a few:
Time traveling aliens who dress as Alien Grays because that's what we expect but are really unsettling Star Fish with eyes, houses that can be grown, rebellious future youth who trade in their pierced earrings for growing their own fins, tails, live finger necklaces that wiggle, group minds, perfect clones that you can transfer you mind to and even the conscious sun.
Then there's sex and the subsequent war between the organically grown sex toys "Big Tongue" and "Luv Slug". As for why you would choose "Big Tongue" that's because "Big Tongue licks clean. Big Tongue cares. Big Tongue keeps mum and Big Tongue licks you" or so it says in the book.
Lotsa fun overall.
My own take on this is that Rucker is simply doing what other science writers have done--Drexler and Ray Kurzweil leap to mind--and that's create a narrative to introduce people to otherwise difficult technical issues. Big difference is that Rudy is a pro and he's got this human interaction thing down a bit better.
So, if you want your dimensional timeline theory or your DNA designed sex toys told with a lighter and accessible touch, you can't go wrong with "Saucer Wisdom".