Saturday, July 29, 2006

Glasshouse - Charles Stross

Charles Stross

Science Fiction

In the 27th century, backing up human consciousness and uploading it into newly created bodies is commonplace, giving individuals a kind of immortality. This new level of technology and human interaction gave rise to the censorship wars. Many participants in the wars elected to undergo a procedure called a memory wipe in order to erase information that was too painful or too dangerous to retain. When Robin wakes up in a rehab clinic, he finds a letter next to his bed from his past self, informing him that past-him opted for the memory wipe. The letter is sketchy on details, but makes it clear that Robin was involved in the wars on a level that made him dangerous to many others.

During his initial rehab, Robin is offered a chance to participate in a sort of social experiment. Scientists want to re-create the society of the “dark ages” of the mid-20th century. Robin hesitates. He’s having memory flashes from his previous life. And these flashes give him the sense that he may still be in danger. He decides to participate in the experiment, hoping that it will shield him until he understands what’s really going on. Taking on the role of a housewife from the 1950s seems pretty safe. But, more and more, Robin begins to suspect that this is all just a construct created by his former, and present enemies when attempts are made on his life. And this time, they don’t want to leave a backup copy.

Fans of cyberpunk and far-future SF will love this one. If you’ve never read this type of novel, GLASSHOUSE will convert you. Readers are immediately immersed in Robin’s world. Not having read the previous novel, ACCELERANDO (pb, 7/06) I was a bit lost at first, but that sort of mirrored Robin’s feelings, so I just decided to go with it. In fact, it may have made me more sympathetic to his situation. There’s a lot of technical information and jargon here, but it’s certainly not necessary to understand the inner workings of cyberspace to enjoy this novel. The author skillfully blends the genres of cyberpunk, SF, espionage, and thriller into a very enjoyable and memorable read. I’ll be looking for more from this author.

Rating: 8
July 2006
ISBN# 0-441-01403-8 (hardcover)


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