Review: The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan | twbr

The Transhumanist Wager is about an entity of Galtian admeasurement called Jethro Knights, who goes about the world exploring the philosophy of being greater than human. The sojourn that the reader embarks upon with Jethro takes us through devastating war, eugenics, and ultimately into the sublimity of a post human earth.

Wager opens with Jethro as an autodidactic singularity seeker without a philosophical framework to allow him to explain and eventually to extend his existence. Within the first few pages nature threatens his life, and we learn that Jethro is absolutely not one to die. In the wending chapters that proceed from the opening, Knights slowly develops a world view and a philosophy that embraces a carefully contrived and emended humanity.

Reading this novel is challenging at times, as the story is unevenly paced. It meanders from didactic lecture to energetic engagements with Jethro’s enemies, and back, returning us to our junior level philosophy class at university. Some of the ideas presented by Jethro and his transhuman affiliates are disturbing and harsh. Exemplar of this harshness; the venom that Jethro indiscriminately levies against religion is enough, at times to make the most dedicated atheist blush.

There are a number of logical issues, which we can cover in the critique, where the author’s zeal compromises Jethro’s individualist logic.

Jethro occasionally reveals himself as the author’s vehicle for philosophical delivery, making himself, as well as his prop like opponents, quite two-dimensional. When learning what is happening in Jethro’s mind the reader is left with the impression that he is without substance. While being extraordinarily talented, resourceful, and consistent, he never conveys a sense of being complete. There is no human quality to the character, which is likely the point, and it would be granted if his reptilian nemesis Reverend Belinas read as more human than prop to facilitate the glory of Jethro’s reason.

Perhaps the single exception to the textureless characters is that of Zoe Bach. She was a textured and complex character whose motivations and desires were always pleasant surprises to the reader. The author’s descriptions of her emotions and her viewpoints were delicately subtle, and carried far more strength than the overhanded brutish clobbering that was the transhumanist onslaught brought about through the interactions and happenstance in the remainder of the novel. Additionally, his depictions of the frangible crystal of love hung precariously between Zoe’s rock and Jethro’s metal were masterful, and displayed a true command of literary imagery.

Broad swaths of Libertarian philosophy comprise the majority of the book. Clearly Mr. Istvan desires for the reader to consider his / Jethro’s trans-human philosophy throughout the story, and to that end he is triumphant. There are a number of logical issues, which we can cover in the critique, where the author’s zeal compromises Jethro’s individualist logic. These can mostly be overlooked as Mr. Istvan has executed the majority of the story well.

you will constantly cheer for the triumphs of Jethro Knights, and jeer at the lunacy of the establishment and it’s backward attempts to deal with him

In several points, one in the beginning and another in the long speech delivered by Jethro to the world toward the end, additional editing could have really helped, as the arguments Jethro made were being constantly undermined by Jethro’s personal irrational fears or frustrations. In the speech, Jethro went vastly beyond all reasonable individualist boundaries in his explanation of his dedication to transhumanism.

All of that being said, this book carries the western review’s recommendation if you, as a reader, fall into one of two categories. The first is one who, being interested in all viewpoints, is willing to entertain ideas of any sort, even if they aggressively challenge the concept of religion to the point of what some would consider blasphemous. The second is if you are techno-libertarian over all other concerns. As the latter, you will constantly cheer for the triumphs of Jethro Knights, and jeer at the lunacy of the establishment and it’s backward attempts to deal with him.

On the other hand if you are someone who doesn’t like being challenged by your literature, you might want to skip this book. At times you will feel like shouting at your eReader, tablet, or computer, and by extension Mr. Istvan. To this reader, the novel was enjoyable overall even while tiding through the less tidy parts.

You can come back and read the critique after you have read the novel. The critique may have what some consider spoilers in it

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