What I'm Reading: Rudy Rucker's Million Mile Road Trip, Juicy Ghosts

I read MMRT late last year, just finished JG.

  • Million Mile Road Trip: Teen slackers behave more like '60s-80s teens than Millennials or Zoomers; they're actually independent, run around doing their own thing with only minimal parental influence. Zoe's a jazz trumpeter, boyfriend Villy wants to be a rock star and has a big ugly purple car (I bet he does). Weird subtly non-Human cousin Maisie, and UFO cult are introduced. Aliens come out of nowhere, as they so often do in Rudy's books. There's another, bigger Universe, "Mappyworld", and the aliens want the slackers, and Villy's little brother Scud as tagalong, to do a "million mile road trip" (title ref 30-ish pages in).

It gets weirder from there, as usual. The cosmology and physics are bizarre, more like one of Greg Egan's math-Universe books without the math. Strange aliens are everywhere, UFOs aren't at all what we normally think, and a super difficult quest. Lot of "teen romance", sex without understanding the consequences (not judgmental, just literally they don't understand what happens!)

Entirely normal interaction:

"Via my teep slug, I wit your brother was laid low by a Freeth." says Filkar. "And you took a coward's way out. Here's solace: oft a Freeth seeks only to stun, and not to slay. Let us therefore suppose that Villy is hale. How do you regain face? Return bearing the benison of a teep slug."
Scud goes for it. The slug is an add-on. A power-up. He extracts the dusty spice jar from his jeans and drops a caraway seed onto flat Filkar. The gingerbread man bucks and shudders, absorbing the seed's fragrant biochemical essence and, very clearly, feeling the better for it.
—Rudy Rucker, "Million Mile Road Trip"

But then eventually it falls apart, you can't actually narrate a million miles of driving (or flying), it's just too much. The book could be 1000 pages instead of 400-ish and it wouldn't be enough. You can see the exact paragraph where Rudy went "uuuuuuhhhhh… wtf now" and basically skips to the ending. The final Boss Fight is hard to follow, in spaces without space, time that doesn't pass, and everything's resolved too fast.

It's so rushed in parts, and so overly ambitious it can't be complete. The characters would be better a little older, On the Road was about Jack Kerouac's adventures in his 20s (and written in his '30s), making the sex, drugs, jazz, and murders less skeevy.

The book web page has notes with a lot more background material that didn't make it in.

So, I like this, I want to love it, but it falls short of that. ★★★★☆

  • Juicy Ghosts: Go read his speculative-science-newage-philosophy book The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul and the short story Juicy Ghost on his Complete Stories page. You've now read 90% of the novel. There's a few new characters introduced after the assassination of "Treadle" (Trump), and the biotech world kritters are interesting (but sort of recycled from Freeware). The biotech houses are neat, but never explained in much detail. There's a bit of a war scene, and some infiltration/hacking, and everyone wins yay. The Notes on Juicy Ghosts are better than the book; and Rudy's paintings help a lot, I wish he'd put more of those in the e-books, instead of just the line sketches that also work in print. ★★☆☆☆ can't really recommend reading the novel.
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