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Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book) Paperback – October 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Series: Bantam Spectra Book
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055357549X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553575491
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In an era when life expectancies stretch 100 years or more and adhering to healthy habits is the only way to earn better medical treatments, ancient "post humans" dominate society with their ubiquitous wealth and power. By embracing the safe and secure, 94-year-old Mia Ziemann has lived a long and quiet life. Too quiet, as she comes to realize, for Mia has lost the creative drive and ability to love--the holy fire--of the young. But when a radical new procedure makes Mia young again, she has the chance to break free of society's cloying grasp. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Humanity's ancient dream of immortality is on the verge of becoming reality in the challenging new novel from erstwhile William Gibson (see below) collaborator Sterling (Heavy Weather, 1994, etc.). In Sterling's late 21st century, advances in cybernetics, nano- and virtual technology and medicine have transformed Earth into a near paradise. Vice and illness still exist, but they're largely voluntary or self-created, the result of not controlling one's appetites and not using the medical facilities provided free to those who live socially acceptable lifestyles. Mia Ziemann is a 94-year-old medical economist in a world ruled by a "post-human" gerontocracy. Life-extension technology is the world's major growth industry and Mia, like many of the elderly, has invested everything into qualifying for new and experimental rejuvenation techniques. After undergoing one of the most radical such procedures, Mia can now pass for 20 but is borderline psychotic. She trades her careful, upscale existence for life on the streets with the restless young, wandering through Europe in search of stimulus and meaning. There, she finds herself surrounded by artists, anarchists and bohemians who, frustrated by their powerlessness, want to involve her in a radical scheme to change the world. Sterling is never an easy writer, especially for casual fans of SF. Here, as usual, he offers intellectual rather than action fare, as discussions of the morality of immortality alternate with debates over aesthetics and the future of high fashion. The future Sterling traces is plausible and provocative, particularly his consideration of several contrasting cultures, and of the disenfranchised who are unable to become "post-human." Those interested in serious speculative conversation set within a very strange near-future will find this much to their taste. Major ad/promo.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Really well written.
George Reyes
Sterling at his best reads something like a collaboration between Tom Wolfe & John McPhee.
Peter D. Tillman
At least I don't... and that should be all you really need to know.
Moon Donkey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on November 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book has a lot of the trappings of science fiction-- life extending technology, genetically engineered pets, virtual reality games-- but the center, in the end, is the search for emotional completion engaged upon by Mia Ziemann, the protagonist of the book.

Ziemann goes through a radical life extension procedure that pushes her past the life of the young and vivid and out the other side through to the Holy Fire. She embarks on a quest for completion that is not aided by hidden magical talents, destiny, or instant success. Instead, she becomes a person who can live her own life with will and sustained follow-through.

Many things impressed me about this book, and I found it very hard to put down, but one of the things I liked the most was the high quality of the characters, and their very real emotional responses. I have some minor quibbles-- there were some loose ends in the book (I felt like the memory palace and the Plato sequences were never developed fully enough) but the book itself was strong enough to carry them. Definitely recommended.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By ljaurbach@erols.com on September 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
Holy Fire is Sterling's best book and occupies a place on my small shelf of sf classics. The compelling hook is Mia's psychological journey in search of satisfying life, in both the physical and creative sense. The choices she makes lead to an explosively unstable mix of anguish and pleasure, horror and contentment. The book's structure is episodic, with little or no plotting (a quality Sterling himself has commented on). The descriptions of future technology are unfailingly inventive and convincing; I particularly enjoyed the "obsolete" computers which would be wondrous to the present age. A heroine with zest and adaptability, Mia is a sublimely bittersweet and engaging central character.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Igor Birsa on August 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the best books I ever read.
In the long run, the author poses to the readers a question that cannot have an unique answer: Above all, who's right, the young or the elder? We can say: obviously none, and both, it depends of your point of view. So what's the final answer?
According to Sterling, the social role of the elder (the medically treated people, who live VERY long) is to mantain the status quo, to control the crazyness of the young, to *CONTROL* the society, by means of the fortunes and political strenght they accumulated. The young instead can 'follow the rules' or be repressed, and indeed the brighthest of them, the 'artists' (those who possess the 'Holy Fire', the capacity to *create* art and ideas) must hide and go in the underground. Here they try to add some new flesh to the human culture, and obviously the elder constantly try to stop them. But sometimes a new idea is good enough, and nothing can stop it, so it eventually becomes part of the status quo, along with their creators. Those same creators will then become elder with time, and will not allow any variation of this idea, acting effectively in the same way the elders of his young age did.
The book goes through all this gradually, showing the elder, the young geniuses, and also the not-so-brilliant wannabe-genius youngsters. As Maya travels across Europe, she matures from an elder, to a newborn young, to a prominent figure in a underground movement.
As always the reading is pure intellectual joy: Sterling's insights in the very nature of human culture, the differences between the old world and the new, the fantastic scenarios of future European cities and so much more.
If you are searching pure action and special effects, you will not find them here. But if you want to *think* when reading a book, this is definitely a good choice.
Worth every page.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sedusa on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was a big surprise to me. I have been a fan of the Cyberpunk or Movement genre since the 80's, and while Gibson and Rucker have captivated me with almost every book they write, Sterling's work has always... lacked something for me. I've enjoyed his short stories more than I have his novels, and have given them a fair shot. Most of them I would rate about a 3.

This novel however, I place squarely in the full 5 star category. The best works of fiction, be they SciFi, Horror, Literature or what have you, are those which make one reflect upon oneself and the nature of existence. This book falls into such august company. A few of the reviews here mention the lack of action or resolution, but I think that they have missed the point. Mia/Maya is discovering both what it means to be an individual and what the nature of life is. She is both an observer and a participant as she is neither truly old or young. Her "wanderjahr" is an exploration and evolution of self and as such, despite the futuristic trappings resonates with the individual quest for the self and what lies beyond it in all of our lives no matter where we are on life's journey. I would hope that everyone makes such a journey in their lives (whether literally or metaphorically), or better yet, experiences life as a continuous unfoldment of same. Highly recommended, in my opinon Sterling's absolute best.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Bruce Sterling's ("Aristoi", "Islands in the Net", "Mirrorshades" editor) new novel "Holy Fire" is very good.

The novel postulates a gerontocracy developing through the perfection of geriatric medicine. As old people live longer, they hold onto the positions of responsibility and power longer. Since old people are inherently conservative, innovation and societal evolution slows down. Resources are funneled into geriatrics medical technology. In addition, the young (under 60 years old) become an underclass.

The story is about an old women who becomes young. The fountain of youth responsible for this is a revolutionary, rejuvenating medical procedure. The conflict is between her new, "vivid" (novel slang for hip), hormonally driven, post-op self (Maya) and the asexual, "posthuman", pre-op, personae's (Mia's) memories and habits. Call her Gen-X with grandma lurking in the back of her mind.

The book was good, right down to the nuances of potential 2070 tech. Maybe he should have cranked back and set the novel a little closer to the present. About the only problem I have is "how well can a male author write a female main character?". It could be argued that a posthuman female is asexual, but Stirling's 20-something Maya had the fingerprints of a 40-something male on her.

Recommended.
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More About the Author

Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, editor, and critic,
was born in 1954. Best known for his ten science fiction
novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews,
design criticism, opinion columns, and introductions
for books ranging from Ernst Juenger to Jules Verne.
His nonfiction works include THE HACKER CRACKDOWN:
LAW AND DISORDER ON THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER (1992),
TOMORROW NOW: ENVISIONING THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS (2003),
and SHAPING THINGS (2005).

He is a contributing editor of WIRED magazine
and writes a weblog. During 2005,
he was the "Visionary in Residence" at Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena. In 2008 he
was the Guest Curator for the Share Festival
of Digital Art and Culture in Torino, Italy,
and the Visionary in Residence at the Sandberg
Instituut in Amsterdam. In 2011 he returned to
Art Center as "Visionary in Residence" to run
a special project on Augmented Reality.

He has appeared in ABC's Nightline, BBC's The Late Show,
CBC's Morningside, on MTV and TechTV, and in Time,
Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times,
Fortune, Nature, I.D., Metropolis, Technology Review,
Der Spiegel, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and many other venues.

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