Learning the World

Thanks to Tom for another great loaner. This time, Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World.

One of my favorite bits (and one of many references to title):

Yesterday we were in a universe that included us and lots of cool stuff: stars, galaxies, plasmas, cometary bodies, planets, and cows and giraffes and AIs and blue-green algae and lichen and microorganisms.

Today we are in a universe that contains us and lots of cool stuff and alien space bats.

That’s a different universe.

A universe with a different history, different potentialities, different future from the universe we thought we lived in. We are not living in the universe we thought we lived in yesterday.

We have to start learning the world all over again.

He’s absolutely right that this book bears more than a passing resemblance to Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky. The stories follow similar lines of slower-than-light trade and colonization making first contact with unexpected aliens. And there are similarities in the ideomatic translation we see. Vinge’s book is more explicitly an adventure story, while MacLeod’s seems more a novel of ideas.

The conclusion seemed a little rushed to me, and smacked a little as either setting up for sequels, or just telling the whole story to make the point made in the last couple of paragraphs. But, overall, well worth the read.