Filled with computronium, parity checkers, references to running hot or slow, and sockpuppets, “True Names“, by Cory Doctorow & Benjamin Rosenbaum is a breakneck story about the struggles of numerous instances of personalities fighting in various levels of reality over love, power, and–what else?–suzeranity over the universe. Beebe is a chaotic civilization of personalities. They include Nadia, who made a killing with the YearMillion bug, Paquette the philosopher, and Firmament, whose birth was turned into a hit musical production. They are opposed by Demiurge, who wants everything to be orderly. Their common enemy is the terrifying onslaught of Brobdinag. It all tumbles into a startling record scratch of an ending that shifts into party music.
This is a fun read. It reminds me of the author’s other stories I’ve enjoyed. The snappy dialogue and philosophizing in “I, Rowboat.” The simulated realities in “The House Beyond Your Sky.” The sheer wackiness of “The Ant-King“. There’s something also in the tone that reminds me of Silverberg, but I’m not sure which Silverberg. It’s been a while.
I notice that all the interesting characters are awarded the female pronoun. One is even (She) Who Adheres to Protocol. Of the characters called “he”, two strike me as nearly interchangeable, and the most prominent is a likeable lunk roughly equivalent to the farm boy with a magic sword and a destiny.
Finally, I also notice that just trying to think about this story is leaving me jangled. Funny, that.