With much of masculine creative energy going into video games like Red Dead Redemption these days, this isn’t a golden age of literature. But clearly Neal Stephenson is one of our more important novelists. From the Amazon promo copy:
Hardcover – June 4, 2019
by Neal Stephenson (Author)
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Seveneves, Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon returns with a wildly inventive and entertaining science fiction thriller—Paradise Lost by way of Philip K. Dick—that unfolds in the near future, in parallel worlds.
In his youth, Richard “Dodge” Forthrast founded Corporation 9592, a gaming company that made him a multibillionaire. Now in his middle years, Dodge appreciates his comfortable, unencumbered life, managing his myriad business interests, and spending time with his beloved niece Zula and her young daughter, Sophia.
One beautiful autumn day, while he undergoes a routine medical procedure, something goes irrevocably wrong. Dodge is pronounced brain dead and put on life support, leaving his stunned family and close friends with difficult decisions. Long ago, when a much younger Dodge drew up his will, he directed that his body be given to a cryonics company now owned by enigmatic tech entrepreneur Elmo Shepherd. Legally bound to follow the directive despite their misgivings, Dodge’s family has his brain scanned and its data structures uploaded and stored in the cloud, until it can eventually be revived.
In the coming years, technology allows Dodge’s brain to be turned back on. It is an achievement that is nothing less than the disruption of death itself. An eternal afterlife—the Bitworld—is created, in which humans continue to exist as digital souls.
But this brave new immortal world is not the Utopia it might first seem . . .
Fall, or Dodge in Hell is pure, unadulterated fun: a grand drama of analog and digital, man and machine, angels and demons, gods and followers, the finite and the eternal. …
I’ve never been confident about Robin Hanson-like plans to upload your consciousness to a computer so you’ll live forever. First, I don’t know what that means.
Second, even if they somehow got it to work in whatever sense “work” means, and elderly cranky me was in some meaningful sense embodied in silicon, I can’t imagine my heirs would go through all the trouble of constantly upgrading annoying me and my buggy operating system to the latest standard and going through expensive debugging instead of just saying, “Oops, great-great-grandpa, I guess you are obsolete. Too bad. So sorry. Bye-bye.”
I can barely keep my own software up to date. And I like me more than my descendants will like me.
Moreover, while dying is expensive in terms of hospital bills and funeral expenses, we paterfamilii can take some comfort in knowing that being dead has been quite cheap. But now the Professor Hansons of this world want us to have to budget for an eternity of debugging and upgrades, which is an alarming challenge to say the least.