Chapter 17
Illustration by Haylee Bolinger

Tall Tower

Neal Stephenson’s Tall Tower has withstood the ravages of time, becoming a launchpad for humans seeking disembodied transhuman enlightenment among the stars and the centerpiece of a sprawling metropolis. Cowboy adventurer Cody Jennings and his horse Levi undertake a spiritual quest to climb to the top of the 20 kilometer behemoth. On the way up they overcome hardship and danger, encounter the tower’s inscrutable inhabitants, and confront one of life’s most vexing questions: as we strive to transcend our human limitations, can our horses go on the journey with us?

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Bruce Sterling is an author, journalist, editor, and critic. Best known for his ten science fiction novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews, design criticism, and introductions for books ranging from Ernst Juenger to Jules Verne. He is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, and in 2013 he was the Visionary in Residence at the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.
  • Saddling the Future

    Written by Ron Broglio
    Ron Broglio, Associate Professor, Department of English; Senior Sustainability Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University

    Bruce Sterling confronts the reader with the problem of verticality—the dizzying heights of ascent with its slow release from warm temperature and gravity and oxygen and a protective ozone layer. Height has been a long looming quest for humans. In the opening volume of his A History of Religious Ideas Mircea Eliade begins by explaining…

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    It definitely seems logical to me that one would want to place [the Tall Tower] near well-developed existing infrastructure in the way of steel mills, transportation lines, etc. But you make a good point that the scale of the project is such that it would acquire its own infrastructure as it went up.

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    Neal Stephenson
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