Review: Glasshouse, by Charles Stross

I do try to rein in the extremes of fanboyism that sometimes attack me. However, confronted with something like Glasshouse, there's really not a lot I can do; my resistance was blown away someplace around page 48. Here's an executive summary, before I get into more detail: Glasshouse is a plot-twisting scifi novel about transhumanism, identity, and anachronism, and you should read it.

Here's more of the detail. Glasshouse deals with a lot of themes, and as usual for Charlie, takes a few sideswipes at concepts other than its main topics on the way through.

Transhumanism: The book is set in a time and place where identity is the only continuous aspect of a person; bodies, genders, individuality and memory are all subject to change through manipulation at the molecular level.

Identity: If you could edit your own memory, would you be the same person? How about if you could just remove a few traits you don't find desirable, and re-write yourself to be fitter, better, more successful? Would the result still be you?

Anachronism: How will people in the 27th Century see the our time, the late 20th and early 21st centuries? Will they be able to get their heads around the notion of sexism? What will they make of our professed beliefs?

There's also some examination of the concept of the identity of game avatars, as in MMORPGs, and of the stratified societies of our own time. To these future people, the notion of any consequence adhering to events beyond a given person's control is anathema, and they've developed technologies and societal patterns to back that up.

Glasshouse probably even qualifies as hard scifi - there's no handwaving of any of the technology, and everything is carefully constructed and thought out. It's one of the best books I've read in quite a while, and I strongly recommend you read it.

Posted by Drew Shiel at June 7, 2007 12:22 PM

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