Glasshouse by Charles Stross
mass market paperback, 333 pages
The censorship wars-during which the Curious Yellow virus devastated the network of wormhole gates connecting humanity across the cosmos-are finally over at the start of Hugo-winner Stross's brilliant new novel, set in the same far-future universe as 2005's Accelerando. Robin is one of millions who have had a mind wipe, to forget wartime memories that are too painful-or too dangerously inconvenient for someone else. To evade the enemies who don't think his mind wipe was enough, Robin volunteers to live in the experimental Glasshouse, a former prison for deranged war criminals that will recreate Earth's "dark ages" (c. 1950-2040). Entering the community as a female, Robin is initially appalled by life as a suburban housewife, then he realizes the other participants are all either retired spies or soldiers. Worse yet, fragments of old memories return-extremely dangerous in the Glasshouse, where the experimenters' intentions are as murky as Robin's grasp of his own identity. With nods to Kafka, James Tiptree and others, Stross's wry SF thriller satisfies on all levels, with memorable characters and enough brain-twisting extrapolation for five novels. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.My Thoughts:
Glasshouse almost didn't pass the 50 page rule. While the importance of history along with an exploration of our current society could be considered themes in Glasshouse, it is also sort of cyberpunk/ Film noir/ video game novel. I'm not really a cyberpunk kinda gal. It had me feeling out of sorts and ready to set it aside more than once but then Stross would do something clever that looked promising and I would decide to stick with it. I never really cared what happened to any of the characters. The book did get less annoying as it progressed, but there were still sections where I just wanted it to end. In the end I'd have to say I just didn't care for Glasshouse. I am going to give Stross another try, though, because the parts I thought were good, were very good.
So-So rating - because some people might respond better to this novel
A dark-skinned human with four arms walks toward me across the floor of the club, clad only in a belt strung with human skulls. opening
I pick up my glass for the first time and take a sip of the bitingly cold blue liquid. "You've just spent an entire prehistoric human lifetime as an ice ghoul and people are needling you for having too many arms?" I shake my head. pg. 4
There's a certain type of look some postrehab cases get while they're in the psychopathetic dissociative stage, still reknitting the raveled threads of their personality and memories into a new identity. The insensate anger at the world, the existential hate - often directed at their previously whole self for putting them into this world, naked and stripped of memories - generates its own dynamic. pg. 6
"An experimental society?"
"Yes. We have limited data about many periods in our history. Dark ages have become all too frequent since the dawn of the age of emotional machines....But the cumulative result is that there are large periods of history from which very little information survives that has not been skewed by observational bias. Propaganda, entertainment, and self-image conspire to rob us of accurate depictions, and old age and the need for periodic memory excision rob us of our subjective experiences. pg. 17
"It's a closed community running in a disconnected T-gate manifold. Nobody gets to go in or comes out after it starts running, not until the whole thing terminates." pg. 29
There's no avoiding it now. I'm going to have to take a backup - and then I'm going to have to seek sanctuary inside the Yourdon experiment. As an isolated polity, disconnected from the manifold while the research project runs, it should be about as safe as anywhere can be. Just as long as none of my stalkers are signed up for it..." pg. 37
"The core element in this society is something called the nuclear family. It's a heteromorphic structure based on a male and female living in close quarters, usually with one of them engaging in semi-ritualized labor to raise currency and the other preoccupied with social and domestic chores and child rearing. " pg. 48