In science fiction there is an expected anomaly that is referred to by a phrase coined by Vernor Vinge. It is called the Technological Singularity, or Singularity for short. The idea is that at some point in the future our technology is going to advance to the point where we — as we are now — will not be able to understand it.
There have been many singularities throughout history. If we were to somehow show people of two hundred years past the internet and streaming videos and Skype and smart phones it would appear as magic to them. Thus the Singularity is just an extrapolation of the Arthur C. Clarke dictum about any sufficiently advanced technology.
Implied Spaces is about a post-singularity universe in which many universes, available via wormholes, have been created. These universes can be created with custom physics and following different laws and rules than our own universe. The worlds, born out of the minds of video game players, have evolved into a variety of places where people can choose to live. Death is no longer truly possible because of technological resurrections and Aristide travels around the universes with his wormhole edged sword and his AI avatar cat studying the implied spaces.
The implied spaces are the ones that exist, not by design but by implication. When people create universes they create certain things they are looking for. The implied spaces are the areas or things in the universe that exist, not because they were part of the design, but because the design implies they exist.
With that as a premise it seems hard to imagine how this book could not be excellent. The ideas involved are fascinating and have a certain symmetry to them that feels very well planned.
However, this is another book that I just didn’t love. Part of it is the post singularity setting. Much like the post singularity setting of Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief I found my inability to understand what was going on too much of a hurdle to cross. The advanced technology of the post-singularity universe feels like an excuse for the author to not bother explaining. Descriptions lack detail, characters lack substance, and the universe at large lacks any sense of reality. The whole feels like the outline of a poorly conceived video game that is badly in need of a concept artist to give some flesh and color to some of the concepts.
Walter Jon Williams’ writing is a bit spartan and feels undeveloped, almost choppy in places. This surprised me because previous Williams books have been long-winded enough that they begged to be shortened. Alas even when writing a shorter work with shorter sentences and smaller paragraphs he still comes across as telling too much.
I had a really hard time getting into this book, which might be setting, or it might just be me, unable to grasp the confusion that is a post-singularity universe. Your mileage may vary.