John Barnes, _Mother of Storms_ (review)

Sean Morgan (
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 22:03:58 -0700

Though I have liked all of Barnes's other books, it took me a while to get
around to reading this one (I bought it quite a while ago), mainly because
it looked like just a disaster book. There is a lot of that, but there is a
whole lot more besides.

ob-Transhuman (SPOILER)
One section of the novel is called simply "Singularity". That's a good sign.

The novel has two cases of uploading (a divorced couple). Many times he
describes the uploaded intellect in units of human brain-years per minute.
This got a little tiresome after a while: "OK, OK, it's a geometric
progression, enough already." Barnes studied math and economics -- nuff said?

He goes to great lengths to describe how the male character's (greatly)
distributed consciousness is (literally) held back by his body. Finally,
after doing his best to ensure that every reader (>H or no) will see the
reasoning behind the act, the character discards his body.

I found myself thinking back to Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love" wherein
the ship's computer was downloaded into meat, after selecting what parts of
"her" mind to lose. I accepted that at the time, but now would ask:
"Why-why-why not stay as a computer?!"

_MOS_ takes place in 2028, by which time many people think nanotechnology
will have had a major impact on our society. Fairly early in the novel it
is mentioned that nanotechnology had been discarded some years earlier
because of an accident that almost ate the moonbase. This isn't because the
author was avoiding the difficulty of dealing with nanotech in a plausible
manner (he gets back to the accident later on). Instead he has placed the
story far enough in the future for things to have changed enough to be
interesting, but not so much as to be unrecognizable.

The description of the runaway process on the moon is really more about
artificial life than nanotechnology. He even describes some of the economy
evolved by the lunar bots. IMHO, that passage surpasses the opening to
Hogan's "Code of the Lifemaker," or Rudy Rucker's lunar alife concept

General impression

Barnes puts an incredible effort into world-building. In one case, (_A
Million Open Door_), first he developed a mathematical model (written up in
_Analog_ as "The Foundations of Psychohistory" or somesuch) which he then he
studied for story potential. I don't know that he used the same approach
for _MOS_, but it is certainly a detailed world.

Aside from being a little long-winded at times (it's a *big* book), the only
thing I did not like was what I found to be a disconcerting amount of
graphic violence. For example, one character buys custom-made snuff films
featuring young girls. We get to see a couple of these, often from more
than one point of view -- the victim, the victim's father, the hired
criminal, the man who paid for it -- and with *way* too much detail for my
taste. I longed for a V-Chip. The story wouldn't have had a noticeable gap
if all that had been removed. I get enough warnings about that from the
news, I don't need it in my entertainment as well.
Sean Morgan ( | "No man whose testicles have been
| crushed or whose organ has been cut off | may become a member of the assembly of
| the Lord." -- Deuteronomy 23:1.