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Glasshouse Hardcover – June 27, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hard on the heels of his acclaimed novel of mankind's evolving technological destiny, Accelerando (2005), Stross turns in another bravura performance with a fanciful glimpse at life in the twenty-seventh century. In an era of virtual immortality, where computer backups of human consciousness have become as routine as unlimited body modification, Robin is a patient in a rehab clinic for convalescents of voluntary memory erasure. With only scant clues, contained in a letter from his former self, to his previous and possibly espionage-related career, Robin quickly discovers his new identity offers little protection from several would-be assassins. Seizing the chance to evade his pursuers for good, he volunteers for a three-year experiment, devised by history professors, to simulate the "dark ages" of early-twenty-first-century society. As a participant in the guise of a middle-class housewife, Robin initially feels secure but soon suspects the experiment may simply be a clever front for his, or her, enemies. Stross amusingly recasts our own era into one of "meaningless customs" while blending suspenseful action with inventive, futuristic technology. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441014038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441014033
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,243,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Stross, 50, is a full-time science fiction writer and resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. The author of six Hugo-nominated novels and winner of the 2005, 2010, and 2015 Hugo awards for best novella, Stross's works have been translated into over twelve languages.

Like many writers, Stross has had a variety of careers, occupations, and job-shaped-catastrophes in the past, from pharmacist (he quit after the second police stake-out) to first code monkey on the team of a successful dot-com startup (with brilliant timing he tried to change employer just as the bubble burst).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Glasshouse is the latest SF novel from Charles Stross and is so far his best. The premise of the novel is that in a far-future society recovering from a war, several of the combatants have elected to wipe their memories and have enlisted in an experimental recreation of the Dark Ages aka the 1950s-2040. Not surprisingly for Stross, the cause of the war was the future equivalent of a computer virus or more accurately a worm.
Despite the technological underpinnings, Glasshouse works better than Stross's prior novels in not overwhelming the reader with jargon. This isn't to say that Glasshouse skimps on extrapolative technologies of Stross's other SF work. The SF elements are omnipresent but there is less reliance on infodumps and where they are used they are enmeshed in the storyline. Its also refreshing to have a break from the deus ex machina of technological superiority that took some of the edge off of Singularity Sky and Accelerando.
Overall, Glasshouse is an excellent showing by Stross. It will undoubtedly be shortlisted for the Hugo and stands a good chance winning in 2007.
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Format: Hardcover
While this book contains references to many SF books of the 50's and 60's, what it mainly is, is an homage to the author Cordwainer Smith, who was really Paul Anthony Linebarger. Apparently, no other reviewers have mentioned this, yet I find it one of the most important things about this book. Smith/Linebarger wrote SF for only a few years, right around 1960, and no one since has written anything like his stuff. In this book, Stross manages to incorporate some of Smith's recurring themes, and tie them into his own recurring vision of a post-Singularity techno-human future, while also bringing in new takes on the old idea of generation ships. Some of the obvious references include one of our protagonist Robin's past lives as a "Linebarger Cat" and there are others that will be familiar to those of us who have read Smith. Those of you who haven't read Smith - well, this will be a fun read anyway, a fast-paced story of recovering from interstellar warfare with dubious psychological help. But you really should go back and read Cordwainer Smith. His few novels and many short stories are collected into less than half a dozen paperbacks; get them while you're at it.

Why, you say, should I read SF written before I was born? Because it's part of the history of the genre, and HISTORY IS IMPORTANT - that's the main point of the book!

The ideas include: what makes us human? Is it human shape? Is it being able to reproduce, creating other humans? Is it free will? Is there such a thing as free will? Stross does not concentrate on religion as much as Smith did, and Stross's ideas about it are a bit more simplistic, but he pays every bit as much attention to free will, and to being able to shape the environment one wants to live in.
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Format: Hardcover
Decisions, decisions. Is this the best book this year, or is Rainbows End (by Vernor Vinge)?

Glasshouse is set later in the same univers as Accelerando, but the story is completely separate and it's not necessary to have read the earlier book. Robin wakes up in a clinic, recovering from memory surgery which has eliminated most of his memory for the period of about an old-fashioned human lifetime. He meets a woman, Kay, who's also recovering from (rather less extreme) memory surgery, and they hit it off--but he also quickly discovers that someone is trying to kill him. He suspects this is because of something he did during the blank period--the little he remembers hints that he was a soldier (a tank?) in the Censorship Wars. At the suggestion of his therapist, he signs on with an experimental social/historical reconstruction, which will put him in a safely sealed environment for a year or two. Kay says she's planning to sign on, too, and they agree to look for each other inside.

Robin wakes up inside the experiment as a woman, now named Reeve. The experiment is an attempt recreate the social culture of a period about which most information has been lost--1950 to 2050. The experimental subjects have to pair off as married couples, and live according to rules that are a nightmare version of 1950s, with technology that's closer to the early 21st century. Individuals gain or lose points according to how well they comply with the rules, and the entire cohort is scored by how well its members do overall. Reeve pairs off with a man named Sam, and suspects that a woman named Cass may be Kay.

Reeve gets off to a bad start because, quite simply, she can't believe how stupid the rules are. No nudity. No wearing the other gender's clothes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the best Sci Fi books I have read this year: believable characters with both depth and raw "edges", extremely inventive situation, easily understood sci-fiction to enable the action and complications, and fascinating background history to make the "now" more believable, plus he keeps you guessing. The author gets better with each book.

The surroundings are simultaneously recognizable and ultimately weird and threatening, a real achievement for an author. He uses some of the strongest prejudices of our current world and society (go read the synopsis) and throws them into a pot of great fictional science and life-threatening situations.

If I had any negative comment at all its that he wraps it up too quickly with less detail than when he spins the web and takes us through the complications. There's more of the "mopping up", plus surrounding/subsequent story that I want to know, but perhaps the next book...
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