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After On: A Book and a Podcast


I’m somewhat in two minds about what I’m actually recommending here, so please bear with me.

In the first instance, After On is a work of speculative fiction (Amazon UK, Amazon US, iBooks). It mainly revolves around artificial super intelligence, but also touches on quantum computing, augmented reality, synthetic biology, privacy and a whole grab bag of other things:

The definitive novel of today’s Silicon Valley, After On flash captures our culture and technological movement with up-to-the-instant savvy. Matters of privacy and government intrusion, post-Tinder romance, nihilistic terrorism, artificial consciousness, synthetic biology and much more are tackled with authority and brash playfulness by New York Times best selling author Rob Reid.

In the second instance, After On is also a Podcast in which (to begin with) Reid interviews people at the top of the fields which are relevant to the book:

This is a series of unhurried conversations with thinkers, founders, and scientists. It began as a complement to the novel After On, in that its first eight episodes explore science, tech, and social issues featured in the storyline. But there is no need to read After On before listening to any of these episodes.

The admission I have to give here is that while I love the Podcast, I don’t actually like the book. It has an interesting plot and some great ideas, but I hated the writing style. I found it unpleasantly cynical and quite amateurish. I disliked almost all of the characters, including and especially the main narrator, whom I found incredibly grating. To make matters worse, the characters all have near identical voices, in my opinion. It felt like it wanted to be a Neal Stephenson novel, but it’s not playing in the same league.

That said, the average reviews on Amazon are really good, and my option is just that: an opinion. I’m also inclined to say that might have been worth reading the book in order to get more out of the podcast… and the podcast is really worth your time. There’s some fascinating (and frankly terrifying) stuff in there and Reid makes for a very compelling interviewer.