Turing & Burroughs

A Beatnik SF Novel
by Rudy Rucker

Transreal Books, September, 2012.
Ebook and Print. 248 pages.

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Reviews

Rucker's novels have ... an angle of attack reminiscent of the Thomas Pynchon of Gravity's Rainbow and the Terry Southern of The Magic Christian. Turing & Burroughs is all of that and more. Much more. It is Rudy Rucker's most ambitious novel, and while perhaps not a perfect success, it is a success. ... Turing & Burroughs is centrally the story of an imaginary gay affair between William Burroughs and Alan Turing. ... Rucker being Rucker, this central story line is not even half the bizarre, fascinating, scientific, sexual, and historical content of this delightfully humorous yet somehow thematically serious novel. ... That this novel was not bought by a major publisher or at least published in a main SF line is a grim comment on the current state of the soul of the American publishing industry.
          --- Norman Spinrad, review in Asimov's SF Magazine

The book opens in 1954, with a gracefully channeled version of Alan Turing—that historically real cybernetic icon of misunderstood genius. The scene is set with vibrant verisimilitude… But Turing’s life soon goes counterfactual, and he’s on the lam to Tangier where he hooks up with William Burroughs, notorious louche Beatnik junkie and scribbler of transgressive fiction. … Pretty soon, out of dire necessity, he’s invented a totipotent shape-changing form of life—a “skug”—that establishes a strange symbiosis with him and Burroughs. … Rucker accomplishes a significant feat by mashing up Greg Bear-level speculations with a kind of On the Road vibe, full of slang-laden hipster contempt for the Establishment and a desire to break free of stifling conventions. Turing’s adoption of Beat philosophy consorts perfectly with his known biographical proclivities, and seems extremely plausible and even predestined, once given the initial violent tweak to his career. The Eisenhower-era conformity and general societal suspicion of weirdos is a perfect adventure matrix for these ultimate outsiders: chimeric, telepathic slugs.
          --- Paul Di Filippo, review in Locus Online

Rucker’s “Beatnik SF Novel” deftly combines historic characters and wild flights of imagination in a spin-off of our world’s history, 1954-1955. … Turing & Burroughs can be enjoyed as a mad romp … that brings together and transforms two characters from history in outrageous ways.  In less than 250 pages—room enough for a host of voices—Rudy Rucker has produced an SFnal tour de force. … The prose in Turing & Burroughs can flow like a drug-stoked dream.
          --- Faren Miller, review in Locus Magazine

The enigmatic death of Alan Turing has long haunted those who inquire into the life of this pioneer of computer science.  [Turing] knew all the deepest secrets of Britain's wartime work in cryptanalysis, and having been shamefully persecuted by the government for his homosexuality, might have been considered a security risk and targeted to be silenced by dark forces of the state.  This is the point of departure for this delightful alternative history romp set in the middle of the 1950s. In the novel, Turing is presumed to have gotten much further with his work on biological morphogenesis than history records. So far, in fact, that when agents from Her Majesty's spook shop botch an assassination attempt and kill his lover instead, he is able to swap faces with him and flee the country to the anything-goes international zone of Tangier. … In this novel, Rucker immerses the reader in the beat milieu, with the added twist that here they really are pod people, and loving it. No doubt the beats considered themselves superior to the straights. But what if they actually were? How would the straights react, and how would a shape-shifting, telepathic, field-upgradable counterculture respond?  … Among the many treats awaiting the reader is the author's meticulous use of British idioms when describing Turing's thoughts and Burroughs's idiosyncratic grammar in the letters in his hand which appear here. This novel engages the reader to such an extent that it's easy to overlook the extensive research that went into making it authentic, not just superficially, but in depth.
          --- John Walker, review in Fourmilog.

More Links

Notes for Turing & Burroughs, free online.

Interviews with Rucker about the novel: Turing Centenary blog, and Duckter Yezno's webzine.

Podcasts including Rucker's talks and readings.

Review Copies & Interviews

Contact Rudy Rucker if you're interested in doing a review or an online interview about Turing & Burroughs for your zine or blog.

 


William Burroughs


Alan Turing