Monday, June 19, 2017

Almost Infinite Complexity, Chapters 10-16

Cooper gets the job, and now has to produce. As he crams in as many odd actuarial equations into a spreadsheet in the hopes of reproducing the results of Gormley's book, he is given two quants to help him. He distracts them by making them build a computer database. They return, job finished, in awe of Cooper's methods. The math is trash, but it works as a predictive model, so it's awesome.

Old Nick Scratch fires Gormley, and bides his time. Cooper owes the devil a favor, but either Satan is playing the long game, or, as he puts it, humans are so inventive at damning themselves, so why work? Gormley lands on his feet and becomes yet another of Cooper's assistants

Thisbe fends off Gormley's wandering hands and Cooper's fumbling advance while she chases after Dean. She makes a complete hash of reading the situation and thinks Cooper is blackmailing Dean, so she starts needling Cooper. Eventually, she tries to sabotage him by proving his death record wrong.

Finally, someone breaks into Mr. Scratch's basement. The cops arrive, question Cooper, and leave, but not before the devil hints that there has been another death on his premises...

Folks familiar with Game will recognize Thisbe as the classic Alpha Widow, or the woman who was once loved by a high-status man and, now discarded, can't let him go. She does get another hit of her drug here, but her obsession with Dean distorts the lens through which she sees the world. If Dean is all that and a bag of chips, why would Cooper hold any blackmail against him? Dean also occupies a position at the pinnacle of the Game hierarchy, while Cooper's place is much lower but not yet pinned down. We'll know for certain when things go south on Cooper...

So far, Mulrooney is a master of exquisite sentence-smithing, with subtle constructions, negations, humor, and rhetoric, but, like a stick figure mosaic made of jeweled tiles, the parts are greater than the sum. It's a bit of a slog through modern literary fiction--good sentences, a leavening of SFF tropes, and all the unlikable characters you can shake a stick at. It might be time for another Reader's Manifesto...


  1. First, Nathan, I can feel your pain getting through this book. I nearly let it go a couple of times, but every time I gave it one more chapter, it kept me going. By the time I finished the story I had changed my mind. Oddly enough, part of what brought me around was the dialogue. Yes, it is consistently banal, and self absorbed. But it made me start listening to the live, real-time dialogue I hear from real people around me. Not much difference. And the evil that drags us to hell seldom manifests itself in grand Faustian bargains, but in the petty compromises we make to get what we think we want at any given moment. The stuff that doesn't sit well is exactly the point. The characters are shallow and self absorbed. If the shoe fits... Human nature being what it is, the devil may as well be an actuary.


    1. There's some pretty brutal points made and clever moments, so it hasn't been unrewarding a read. And there is a sense that the story is building to something. But, at best, this is a rare book that works better if read in small chunks than from cover to cover.