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Glasshouse
Charles Stross
Ace, 335 pages

Glasshouse
Charles Stross
Charles Stross was born in Leeds, Yorkshire and he now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. He sold his first short story in 1987 to Interzone. But it was his first sale to Asimov's SF in 2001 that provided his big break into the US market.

Charles Stross Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Hidden Family and Accelerando
SF Site Review: The Atrocity Archives
SF Site Review: Singularity Sky

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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"A dark-skinned human with four arms walks towards me across the floor of the club, clad only in a belt strung with human skulls. Her hair forms a smoky wreath around her open and curious face. She's interested in me."
So opens Glasshouse, Charles Stross's latest and best (so far) novel, set in the Invisible Republic, a splinter-polity recovering from the Censorship Wars. Here's Robin, the protagonist: "When people ask me what I did during the war, I tell them I used to be a tank regiment. Or maybe I was a counter-intelligence agent. I'm not exactly sure: my memory isn't what it used to be."

Robin has hot monkey-love with skull-clad Kay. Then they both sign up for an experimental historical-roleplaying project, which has the stated objective of recreating one of the historic Dark Ages, c.1950-2040 AD. You won't be surprised to hear that (cue ominous music) things are not as they seem. A twisty, engrossing and very well-done paranoia-thriller ensues.

It's the 27th century. People have moved to space, in habitats around brown-dwarf stars, linked by instantaneous T-gate wormholes. Their health, wealth and daily sundries are supplied by A-gates, nanotech assemblers that can store, edit and recreate most anything, including the posthumans. But the security on the gate network, well, wasn't very secure...

I had a whole lot of fun reading Glasshouse, which is a spicy blend of bleeding-edge SF extrapolation, cool, complex characters, an amazing number of plot-twists, and wonderful storytelling. This is a mature work, with the author in full control of his tools. The book has the feel of Robert A. Heinlein at his best: a matter-of-fact recounting of daily life in a far-future world that has taken some very strange turns....

And some familiar ones, like that ole deviant-replicant problem: "Killing myself always makes me feel like shit..."1

Stross's energy and imagination never flag, and the book comes to a satisfying (if a bit formulaic) conclusion. Look for it on next year's award-ballots. Highly recommended.


1 [1] Actually, I'm being unfair -- Stross spins a novel twist on this (and other) old, but still scary, conundrums.

Copyright © 2006 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Amazon, Infinity-Plus, SF Site, and others. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more of Pete's reviews.


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