Pink Noise: hard-sf novella about the strange battles of the posthuman

By Cory Doctorow

Leonid Korogodski's publishing debut Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale is a dense, hard-sf novella that takes a serious crack at imagining the priorities, miseries and joys of posthuman people. It's a tall order: creating believably nonhuman post-people means that you necessarily give up on a certain amount of empathy and sympathy for your characters who are, by definition, doing things whose motivations we can't purely understand.

Korogodski's solution is to garland the tale with a kind of scientific poesie -- a superdense rush of technical explanations for the atomic structure of the human -- and posthuman -- mind, written with the kind of passion that a pornographer might reserve for a detailed description of someone's reproductive organs, and the kind of lyricism that a poet might use to describe the same parts (albeit by allegory). This, for the most part, really works -- Pink Noise manages to be a story that sucks you in and spits you out again some 120 pages later, having somehow convinced your mind to care about the trials and tribulations of people who can't properly die and who are mostly made from computation.

The book comes with a series of technical appendices explaining the neuroscience, astrophysics, evolutionary computing and linguistic tricks that make the book hum, and when these aren't sufficient, the author has left sidebars and footnotes in the text of the story itself. These are fascinating little essays, but I don't reckon you need to read them to get the story.

What's the story? Nathi is a transhuman brain doctor, someone who can repair neurological insult in those people who stubbournly insist on having meat bodies. He is called in to rescue a comatose girl who has suffered a grave nerve insult, and so an instance of himself is inserted into her mind, whereupon he discovers that he is not who he thought he is, and neither is she. This leads to a daring escape, an epic space-battle, and a series of bizarre and imaginative flashbacks explaining the economics and geopolitical carnage left behind by the Singularity.

Silverberry Press have packaged the novella and its technical essays in a slim and handsome hardcover, with several black-and-white illustrations from Bulgarian artist Guddah. I'm sorry to say that these illustrations left me very cold, being the kind of computer-enhanced "futuristic" illustration that my eyes generally slide past at science fiction conventions.

I taught Korogodski at the Viable Paradise sf writing workshop some years ago, and it's always good to see a student doing well. This is a promising debut from a writer who isn't afraid to be as technical as he needs to be in order to tell his story.

Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale

Published 6:35 am Fri, Oct 15, 2010

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

26 Responses to “Pink Noise: hard-sf novella about the strange battles of the posthuman”

  1. simonbarsinister says:

    If you want to read a disturbing tale of what post-humans might be like, read Paolo Bacigalupi’s “People of Sand and Slag”.

    Free read here: http://windupstories.com/pumpsix/the-people-of-sand-and-slag/

  2. Loren Reed says:

    Well, I think I think the cover is cool. And I intend to buy this book.

  3. ultranaut says:

    Am I missing something? The pink lettering is wrong, but otherwise it seems like a fine cover.

    Has any book cover art in the contemporary era come close to surpassing Saturn’s Children as most embarrassing to read in public? I love Stross, but seriously, that cover cost him sales.

  4. spool32 says:

    epub would be nice. As it is, I’ll have the dead tree version on my Amazon wishlist until i get round to it…

  5. jjasper says:

    It’s a tall order: creating believably nonhuman post-people means that you necessarily give up on a certain amount of empathy and sympathy for your characters who are, by definition, doing things whose motivations we can’t purely understand.

    I don’t see this as *necessarily* true. Perhaps a post-person would have superior empathy, like a Bodhisattva, and be someone who exemplified our most noble traits. My point is, we can’t know for sure what it would be like until we see one. Speculation is cool and fun, but that’s all it is.

  6. pghslate says:

    I would buy a copy right now if it were available in the epub format.

  7. Simon_Drax says:

    Intensely intrigued! But the cover is awful! If the cover is any indication, guess Cory’s on target with his assessment of the interior illustrations. But I am intrigued!!!

  8. happenchance says:

    Sounds like an interesting tale… however, that book cover is hideous! If I saw this in a bookstore, I’d totally think it was a story about cyborg rock stars from a Motley Crue ruled future. Who designs these things?!

  9. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    Somewhere, one warm, lonely tear runs down a cover designer’s cheek.

  10. sing it, baby says:

    Can check post-human people check their email during sex?

  11. frogworth says:

    “We are not able to ship this item to your default shipping address.”

    Given that there’s no way there’d be an Australian publication of this novel, why are Amazong doing this shit? Bah.

  12. Anonymous says:

    For the post-humans, there is no meaningful distinction between email and sex.

  13. frogworth says:

    Dear Leo,
    That’s incredibly kind of you and I’ll work out how to PayPal you or something for it! Emailing you now…

  14. Leo Korogodski says:

    The eBook version is out. Enjoy!

  15. JonStewartMill says:

    And somewhere, David R. Bunch is smiling.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Has made the SF site top 10 reads of 2010 – http://www.sfsite.com/columns/best11.htm

  17. Leo Korogodski says:

    Hi, everyone! I am the book’s author. Cory, many thanks for the review!

    To the poster #1: An ebook version is coming as soon as the first hardcover print run is close to being sold out. Which is hopefully soon, as only 3000 copies have been printed so far.

  18. mycophage says:

    Wow. Worst cover, in the sense of “most embarrassing to read in public,” since Stross’s “Saturn’s Children.” I know that writers rarely have control over cover art, so I’m not blaming Korogodski – just feeling sympathy (and a mild burning on my retinas).

  19. Leo Korogodski says:

    Btw, a PDF sample is available at pinknoise.net

    • pghslate says:

      Thanks! I’m loving the PDF preview. I’ll keep an eye out for for the ebook/epub version; I hate wasting all that paper.

  20. stuhfoo says:

    80s science fiction book cover anyone? I thought the review would be about rediscovering an old read.

  21. Ponobill says:

    You folks are joking about the cover, eh? Most SF has covers that beg for a beige slipcover.

  22. Gregory Bloom says:

    Not available on the Nook. Too bad.

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