Ventus is a bag full of neat science fictional ideas. The narrative is a sprawling epic that invites comparison to big fantasy doorstoppers. It also takes it time getting anywhere and jumps scene whenever you’ve started liking the actual viewpoint character. But the ideas buried in the setting and the plot really made me come back again and again.
I don’t really agree with most of the arguments in there, neither Schroeder’s pet peeve about virtual worlds nor about the need to abandon human high-level concepts to create the Other, but truly mindbending science fiction books are a minuscule part of each year’s SF output that most of them, like Ventus, are worth reading even if you disagree with them.
The most important theme (IMHO), the idea of grounding AI’s in their physical medium, to uncouple them from thinking in human terms, of defining meaning at higher hierarchy levels in distributed nanotech-AI-systems in an entirely non-human way is both interesting and yet seems like a non-problem to me. But that may be because I don’t buy into his strong Whorfianism-like argument about human culture.
But I admit, just as a thought experiment, that if you live in an universe where that were true, the need to create a truly Other, to build true diversity, would be essential for the long-term survival for any species, since real change (and thus a higher adaptiveness) could probably only be induced by such diversity. It’s an interesting argument, even if I don’t buy into it. Or, not to the extreme that the book makes it out to be.
Well, there you have me. If anything, the book makes you think. The writing may be a bit clunky at times, the plot structure too much like a generic fantasy epic early on, but it’s definitely worth going through for all the brain stimulation that comes with it.
You can even get it for free if you like. Well, not entirely, but it’s time well spend.