by Rudy Rucker
Though I’ve enjoyed Rucker’s books immensely before, I’d somehow managed to miss this early work of his. Actually, that’s not too surprising, as its first appearance was in 1979 — dude, that’s like before computers! This time around, Wired Books has taken White Light and packaged it in widely noticeable (and available, would you like a cappuccino with that?) super-slick Wired chrome design.
White Light, presented here as a seminal classic of modern science fiction, shows little practical attention to technology, takes place in a relatively timeless small-town (for a large part, at least) and uses astral projection as a source of virtual reality instead of any sort of head-mounted or retina-aimed device. Still a lot of modern voices are recognizable within Rucker’s “man on the street” writing style.
More interestingly, the book does to the concept of infinity what Abbott’s Flatland does for geometry. If you’ve ever contemplated infinity as something more than the size of the universe, this book is for you. Building on a solid foundation of mathematics, the situations that narrator Felix Rayman encounters (in his astral body) in the land of Cimön make not only for interesting and surreal reading, but also quite clear and logical examples of what defines an infinity and how one measure of infinity can be shown to be different from another. Which is larger, the number of all possible numbers, or the number of points in a space? White Light touches on topics like these with a hallucinatory touch worthy of Phillip K. Dick.
I’m really glad to see work like this being unearthed and highlighted — White Light is a book that completely transcends ordinary reality without resorting to technology or the supernatural. I hope Rucker sells alef-one copies.