One of the big things that bugs me, and takes me out of a story is when characters don’t react like real human beings. It’s part of what bugged me about Indy 4, it’s what bugged me about the Star Wars prequels, it’s what bugs me about most of the stuff Doctorow has written (Little Brother being the notable exception). And it’s what is bugging me about this Accelerando by Charlie Stross.
Let’s give some story examples and contrast with what a real human being would do.
The Setup : In the near-future, a world of almost universal surveillance, crazy quasi-dominatrix but chaste IRS agent woman tracks down wealthy man, disables him, superglues his fingers together, puts him in some kind of isolation helmet, and then rapes him. She then superglues her vagina shut so she’s sure to get pregnant. She explains her plan to extort money with this child.
The Fallout : Crazy quasi-dominatrix has a child, and then uses that child to demand child support from wealthy man. Wealthy man has to hide from this litigious bitch, using only his savvy business and political smarts to escape.
How Shit Would Really Go Down : Recently raped man goes to police. Crazy quasi dominatrix is arrested. Child is either adopted, or becomes a ward of the state.
I mean, seriously.
The Setup : Rape daughter is on a deep-space vessel performing child labor for some reason. Crazy quasi-dominatrix joins a sect of Islam, so she can force her rape-daughter to have behavior modification software installed into her brain.
The Fallout : Rape Daughter checks out the rules of the sect, carefully exploring any loopholes she might use to cleverly escape this woeful situation, oh, this will be quite a legal pickle!
How Shit Would Really Go Down : Rape Daughter “My mom joined a sect of Islam so she can control me”
Other Girl “OH, how are you going to get out of this”
Rape Daughter “She’s on Earth and I’m in deep fucking space, this doesn’t matter.”
Other Girl “Oh, right, Lol, let’s go do more child labor”
Fucking seriously. I wish I were joking that this story is about a woman who works for the IRS becoming Muslim so she can keep her daughter away from the father she raped, in order to collect taxes.
This is two things I’ve tried to read by Charlie Stross and I’m not gonna cramp anything to read a third. He doesn’t write characters, he writes preposterous and somewhat boring logistical situations, and in order for these situations to evolve in a way he finds amusing, human nature must be ignored, inverted, or subverted.