Spacetime Donuts - Rudy Rucker (1981)

Spacetime Donuts is a rare combination of psychadlia, counter-culture sci-fi and abstract mathematics. It is territory Rucker covers in other books, notably White Light which predates Spacetime Donuts in publishing history but postdates it in actual time-of-writing.

The book itself is a delightfully chaotic mish-mash. Set in a dystopic-disguised-as-utopic future US, called now Us ("Us is Users and Users is Us - Us needs you, 'cause you're Younique!"), the book's plot concerns a sixties-style counter-culture revolution with lots of sex, drugs and rock and roll with some bombs thrown in for flavor. What makes it special though is the science and philosophy that Rucker manages to inject into the narrative.

Rucker has a Ph.D. in set theory and firm grasp of higher math and theoretical physics. The title Spacetime Donuts refers to the idea of circular scale, if you take something and start expanding it, eventually you roll all the way around and without ever changing "directions" end up approaching where you started from the small end of the scale - the way if you take a circle drawn on the inside of a donut and start "rolling" it up, the circle gets larger until it reaches a maximum size, and then starts shrinking, although you are still rotating it in the same direction. (Rucker admits, in the mouth of one of his characters, that it's a flawed analogy, but still ...)

Another point which Rucker works entertainingly into the story is that of the nature of consciousness, the paradoxes inherent in self-awareness and how this is a problem for "Artificial Intelligence."

All this, and quotes from Frank Zappa!

Ultimately, the book is not quite as good as White Light. It's a little dated and not as assured as some of Rucker's later work. However, it's still pretty darn good, and manages to work the math into the story so smoothly that it just seems like a series of cool concepts rather than some dry academic exercise. Well worth the time spent reading it.

Overall Grade: B+

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