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Counting Heads Hardcover – October 20, 2005


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Product Details

  • Series: Counting Heads (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (October 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765312670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765312679
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,175,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This extraordinary debut novel puts Marusek in the first rank of SF writers. Life on Earth in 2134 ought to be perfect: nanotechnology can manufacture anything humans need; medical science can control the human body's shape or age; and AIs, robots and contented clones do most of the work. If only there were a way to get rid of the surplus people. When Eleanor Starke, one of the major power brokers, is assassinated, her daughter's cryogenically frozen head becomes the object of a quest by representatives of several factions, including Eleanor's aged and outcast husband, a dense zealot for interstellar colonization, a decades-old little boy and husband and wife clones who are straining at the limitations of their natures. Marusek's writing is ferociously smart, simultaneously horrific and funny, as he forces readers to stretch their imaginations and sympathies. Much of the fun in the story is in the telling rather than its destination—which is just as well, since it doesn't so much come to a conclusion as crash headlong into the last page. But the trip has been exciting and wonderful.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics compared this debut SF novel to works by Charles Stross, Rudy Rucker, John Wright, and even Philip K. Dick. Marusek examines present-day trends in technical and scientific advances, projects the social, biological, economic, and political consequences of such progress—and runs with it. Yet, although the author "is unstintingly generous in his speculations," notes SciFi.com, he is also "convincingly realistic." Inventive set pieces, complex and cliché-free characters with ordinary aspirations, and blurred lines between "real" and "artificial" thrilled all reviewers. Only the ending rang false in its brevity, suggesting that perhaps a sequel may be on its way.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Science fiction fans have been waiting for David Marusek's first novel for some time; Counting Heads was worth the wait.
I Read too Much
Instead, most of the main characters end up in a rather unsatisfying showdown towards the end, which doesn't really do much to resolve what little plot there was.
just another customer
His characterizations are complex and the clones are particularly intriguing - a contented work force who enjoy conforming to type, like most humans.
Lynn Harnett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Cory Doctorow on October 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
David Marusek is one of the best-kept secrets of science fiction, a wild talent with a Gibson-grade imagination and marvelous prose, and a keen sense of human drama that makes it all go. Science fiction editors nurture short story writers -- many sf insiders keep track of the short fiction markets and watch with keen interest the writers who are doing good work there, but until those writers manage to get a novel out, it's rare for the field at large to take note of them. Writers like Ben Rosenbaum and Ted Chiang do incredible, brilliant work in short lengths, and the field does yeoman duty recognizing them with awards and approbation, but ultimately, the audience for short fiction is regrettably small.

Marusek's amazing story "The Wedding Album" floored me when I read it in 1999, was a finalist on the Nebula ballot, won the Sturgeon and Asimov's Reader's Choice Awards, placed in the Locus, Seiun and HOMer awards, and left all who read it gob-smacked. It was the story of the AI avatars cast as a sort of wedding photo of a couple on their big day; the story traces the avatars' lives through thousands of years of technical evolution, through the Singularity, and out the other side. The story reels from heartbreaking to mind-bending like a poet on a magnificent drunk bouncing from lamp-post to lamp-post.

I have a gigantic backlog of reading that I've promised to do, but when the galleys for Marusek's first novel, Counting Heads, came to my mailbox, it went into my shoulder-bag and has stayed there ever since, while I read it in sips and draughts, stealing every possible moment to read more of it, wanting to see what happens next and not wanting it to end.

Counting Heads is the story of a humanity thrashing on the horns of the dilemma of too much of everything.
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72 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Duemer on November 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While Counting Heads has much to recommend it, I don't think the novel lives up to its potential, nor to the potential of the author's work in short forms. Marusek is best at painting a nuanced & convincing future-scape. Nano-technology repairs the human body so that people live effectively forever; various lines of clones do specialized work suited to their types; "affs" (for "affluent") fight among themselves to control the wealth of the earth & its expansion into outer space; "free range" humans (non-cloned) form charters, or associations, which harken back to 19th century Chartism. All this is fascinating. Marusek has a highly inventive imagination & may well learn how to put a narrative together. His way of naming objects in the future demonstrates a clued-in ear for contemporary pop culture. The problem is that the reader is two-thirds through the novel before meeting an attractive character with whom to identify. In fact, the leading characters are insufferable affs. And through that first two-thirds, there really isn't anything you'd call a plot -- just a series of loosely linked incidents that serve to explicate the future-scape & that is the best of it. The final third of the narrative is a poorly conceived action / adventure sequence in search of a human meaning. Conclusion: Incident in search of plot; characters in search of personalities; an alternative world in search of a meaningful connection to experience.

Counting Heads suffers from shallow editing -- there are some truly bizarre sentences -- but no matter -- a good editor might have insisted on some character development & might have prevented the final section of the story from becoming a not very convincing chase scene from a B-movie. The vaunted editorial team at Tor might have hammered this into an interesting book -- the ideas are there -- but failed to do so in this case.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John Me Wallace on January 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The first work by David Marusek I read was "Getting To Know You", in an a little anthology titled "Issac Asimov's Utopias." The story blew me away, and when I found out that he was writing a novel set in the same universe, I knew I had to have it, and waited with baited breath until its publication. I was not disappointed.

The first part of the novel is "We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy", a novella published in 1995 that introduces this world. I was pleased as punch to see it, as at this point I'd only read "Getting to Know You". As part of the novel, it is arguably its best part; it's tautly-written, and it pulls you in and doesn't let go. Part 1 is set in 2092-4, and the succeeding two parts are set in 2134, making the novel proper a kind of contained prequel and sequel.

Marusek maps out this world--the "Boutique Economy"--in exhaustive detail, amazingly so given its modest length. It is a world both horrifying and hopeful; neither it nor its characters let you rest on your laurels. With its clones and de facto caste system, echoes of "Brave New World" are very much in evidence. Like Huxley's novel, much of the novel is darkly comic and satirical, but the author never loses sight of the human heart, and it is this thread of humanity that makes it all a joy to read.

The plot is basically a murder / espionage mystery, but the writing style itself is also something of a puzzle. Marusek uses many acronyms and portmanteau words that are not immediately explained, but whose meaning becomes evident as one progresses through the work. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had put an intricate model together. This is great stuff.
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More About the Author

I'm a science fiction writer who lives in a cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska. I don't spend much time promoting myself online, and the time I do spend usually goes to my web site www.marusek.com or my blog countingheads.blogspot.com. Please visit me there for all the latest news about my work.

I do check in here occasionally, however, and I will gladly join any discussion and answer questions submitted here.