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Glasshouse by Charles Stross

Far future cyberpunk novel

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Gets two strong thumbs-up

  • May 16, 2009
  • by

Several hundred years from now, humanity has just finished the Censorship Wars. Using an electronic virus called Curious Yellow, it targeted the brains of historians as they used teleportation gates (the major method of transportation). Robin has just emerged from a medical clinic with most of his memory wiped. Perhaps he was one of those targeted historians; he does have memories of being in a tank regiment during the war, not as a soldier, but as a tank. He joins a research program to recreate the "dark ages," the late 20th and early 21st centuries, by having volunteers live in an actual, recreated "town." It sounds like a good way to get away from whoever is trying to kill him; whatever he did, or was, before his wipe, it must have been important.

The participants are given random, anonymous identities (Robin is turned into a woman named Reeve). Along with Sam, her "husband," they are placed into what looks like Smalltown, USA. They are given little, or no, idea as to just what they are supposed to do. All the couples are electronically monitored; during mandatory church services on Sunday, any faults or misdeeds are pointed out to everyone. Reeve is one of the few who begins to realize that something is really wrong. Their contract specifies a minimum amount of time to be in the study, approximately 3 years, but does not specify a maximum amount of time. The town has become a very high-tech panopticon. The women have suddenly become fertile, and several female participants have become pregnant. Perhaps the idea is to create a new race of people who don't know that there is an outside world. Perhaps it has to do with this new race re-infecting the rest of humanity with a new and improved version of Curious Yellow.

Here is a wonderful piece of writing. The best part is the author's look at present-day life. He does not just needle it or poke fun at it, he rips it to pieces and stomps on what is left. The rest of the book is also very much worth reading. This gets two strong thumbs-up.

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May 17, 2009
Wow. Awesome review plappen! I'm so glad your popped up in my Similarity Network! It looks like I'll have plenty to add to my reading list thanks to you! :) You might be interested in @jamidwyer's awesome "Best Dystopia" ExhilaRATE game. There's some awesome books to review there! Keep up the good work! I'm looking forward to reading more from you!
About the reviewer
Paul Lappen ()
Ranked #69
I am in my early 50s, single and live in Connecticut. I am a lifelong very, very avid reader and am a freelance book reviewer with my ownblog (http://www.deadtreesreview.blogspot.com). Please visit. It … more
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From Publishers Weekly
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)
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ISBN-10: 0441014038
Author: Charles Stross
Publisher: Ace Books
Date Published: 2006

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