- Series: Counting Heads (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Ed. edition (November 1, 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,482,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hardcover – October 20, 2005
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A big part part of what draws me in to SF books is the tech. Usually there are a few new technologies and their consequences. Not here. There are tons of new and common ideas, applied in many ways with their consequences.
The choice to break up the timeline the way it was in the book felt interesting to me.
I didn't enjoy the fact that the searing was effectively left "unsolved".
Overall, strongly recommended. I already started reading the sequel.
The book develops well with interesting concepts, good action and great flow, then derails to a sudden ending with some major issues left open (I won't give away the plot here). I've seen this time and again, and I wonder if maybe there was a page limit on the book, or perhaps the author has had enough and wants to hand in the work?
I'm not a writer, and I know it must be rediculous to have one's work criticized by someone who has not been down the same road, but I have invested money and time in this work and have to say that although it was a good read, and solid entertainment for a few days, it will not stay with me the way other books in it's genre (Diamond Age, for example) have.
Marusek presents the near future as a personal and political battle between anonymous converging interests and individual power.
Marusek presents dissertation worthy discourse on agents and actors as ideas manifested as the random convergence of the interests of individuals. While simultaneously describing in rich detail the coming wonders of a possible and plausible near future as an exploration of the many faces of characters built over centuries of time.
David Marusek does not do this dissection of the singularity as a scientific postmortem.
This vivesection of the near future is wonderfully presented as a story of love found and lost over centuries of time.
My takeaway from this and Marusek's later works in this series are that the importance of events is all in the perspective and evolution is a harsh mistress.
To sum it up. If a tree falls in a forest does anyone care if it screams?
Marusek is dramatizing a time of social revolution and accomplishes it in a very striking and efficient fashion. So he tells the story from the perspective of members of the affected classes, the powerful and wealthy `affs', the clones who do much of the routine work, and the `Chartists' who represent the balance of humanity clinging to familiar old political values and economics. In addition, he optimizes his overall strategy to show a lot of what's going on in this society by expanding the roles his characters play in the story. The pursuit of a cryogenically preserved head forms a "Maltese Falcon" core to the plot of this novel, but rather than following the typical convention of that storyline, the pursuit of the head doesn't become the central preoccupation of most of the characters. The actors in this drama are involved in the adventure in much the same way that we really experience one--as part of their job, or as witnesses, or victims or witting/unwitting accomplices etc., and they become involved while pursuing their own private business. So by following the twists and turns of each character's ultimate involvement in the recovery of the head, we get not only a resolution of the story, but we also intimately feel the ugly new world order eating away the vestiges of the old. Although the notion of adapting the narrative strategy to explore different aspects of a world is neither terribly exotic or new (Zola and Dickens come to mind), it's certainly ironic that the idea hasn't been fashionable in SF for decades.
Of course, one byproduct of this story telling technique is that the plot loses some cohesion, each subplot moves at its own tempo and its progress may not relate to the others or obviously advance the `global' plot. Marusek addresses this by directly applying some of the oldest and most general dramatic principles. For instance, you can see that the story ends in a perfectly acceptable way if you observe that the end mirrors the opening status quo. There are a couple tricky bits though, the novel proper begins with the end of the introductory short story, and some of the characters are in motion when they first appear, just waiting for something to knock them in a new direction. The clearest example of this mirroring is the boy Bogdan, who first shows up looking for a missing computer, and his last action is to go off looking for a lost artificial intelligence. It's also worth noting that Bogdan's motives and values have changed in the course of the story, and Marusek's plotting includes substantial elements of character growth and development to fill in the chinks in "Counting Heads' looser structure. The plotting is simplicity itself, any purpose or action is met with progressively higher obstacles and greater frustrations. This happens regardless of whether the action has any direct bearing on the big picture, but the overall effect is to continuously build the tension. Overcoming, enduring or trying to get around the sort of reversals the characters face is the basis of drama and the foundation of a good plot.
It seems fairly clear to me that when evaluated by the appropriate criteria, "Counting Heads" is a remarkable achievement. I've tried to argue that most of the 'defects' attributed to the novel are simply results of Marusek choosing to tell his story in the best possible way. Naturally, there are flaws in "Counting Heads", some fairly serious, thus it only gets 4.5 stars. The worst is perhaps the bizarre decision to use a first person short story as a prologue and then later changing that character's viewpoint to third person-that is a grievous fault, and the story suffers right up to the end from it. Also, the clones subplot is very important, but still takes up way too much space, there's a lot of other material that deserved more attention.