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Glasshouse review

We certainly won’t be throwing stones at this one

Author: Charles Stross

Publisher: Orbit

400 pages • £6.99

ISBN: 978-1-841-49393-0

Rating:

Can you be too clever for your own good? Not sure, but if you can’t push boundaries writing SF then when can you? And in this book Charles Stross pulls off a neat double bluff, making Glasshouse so easy to read that it almost hides how thoughtful the book is (and quite how cheeky, with its glancing little homages to everything from ’60s TV to arthouse porn and the SF greats).

Let’s get this over with: Glasshouse is the novel Charles Stross was born to write. Set loosely in the same world as Accelerando, it uses the thriller structure he first developed in Iron Sunrise and twists it into a framework so casually post-cyberpunk, it’s hard to know how many times we should stick the word “post” before “cyberpunk”.

Stripped of his memory, Robin finds himself in a bar with an attractive four-armed xenohuman wearing a belt of human skulls and nothing else. He buys her a drink, because what else is a man to do? And you just know he’ll become her lover. Only first he needs to kill a blonde in a seethrough nightie. She’s got a voice like a drill, carries a large sword and wants a duel, but that’s fine.

Getting memory-wiped tends to leave you craving sex and violence, it turns out, and our hero Robin is happy to oblige. All it takes is a quick jump to the remilitarised zone, and look, there’s a convenient point-to- point wormhole right there in the bar. We’re only seven pages into the book, but the dominoes are already falling. And then, courtesy of an “experiment”, we find ourselves in the 21st century. Well, an approximation of it, and Stross spins off into a bitter satire of our own post 9/11, quasi-fundamentalist, paranoid dark age as seen by post-humans in an experiment aimed at creating…

We would tell you, but that would just ruin the surprise. This is Stross’s best book yet. Pick it up and discover it for yourself.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood

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