- 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 97 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,777,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Glasshouse Hardcover – June 27, 2006
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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.
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
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Robin is recovering from a self-prescribed memory wipe surgery. He takes up with the four-armed Kay. He is being threatened by something in his forgotten past. They decide to enter an experiment that will cut them off from the universe for one-hundred "megasecs," which is about three years.
Once in the experiment, Robin finds himself in a puny female body and he can't identify Kay. He also discovers that the experiment has reproduced a society that incorporates the gender rules of the 1950s and the experimenters have rigged a punishment and reward scoring system to enforce the rules.
I found the first half of the book tiring and irritating. Basically, it seemed to be an opportunity for satirizing gender roles based on a strawman caricature. Worse, the previously male Robin seemed to be stereotypically female, acting in ways that wouldn't seem to be typical of a male or even a person where gender roles had been eliminated by gender-swapping technology. Likewise, the other former denizens of post-human society seemed to become something like high school girls. It seemed weird and not very persuasive.
On the other hand, at some point, the book shifted into high gear as a high-tech spy thriller. We learned a lot about how the paradise of post-human high technology is actually very capable of dehumanized horror. These aspects of the story were what sold the book to me, raising my score from three stars to four stars.
Ultimately, after a choppy start, I enjoyed this book's energy and vision.
Glass House makes me think of something that would be written in haste for a 8th grade project. The concept is engaging but the characters are flat and not at all endearing. It's the sort of thing where you think, I wish I could give the outline for this story to a very good author and see what they could do with it.
Many of the author's scene setting points are contradictory and the lack of detail in many areas makes the story less believable and non-immersive.
When they are put into a dystopic setting, the believability of the characters' ability to adapt to 20th and 21st century life is unconvincing. We're to believe that beings who are essentially human, who live thousands of years in the future and have fundamentally different concepts of life, the universe and everything have somehow miraculously adapted to living entirely on their own in 1950's America after only three days.
While you might expect a novel to contain rich detail and character building, this book reads more like a story quickly told to you on the bus between stops.
The hero is (a male) named Robin who's just gone through memory erasure (perhaps voluntarily). In order to avoid what he believes are assassins pursuing him, he volunteers for an experiment in which people live as they did during the "dark ages." Although the dark ages in question are the 20th and 21st centuries.
Stross has a clever idea: the records from the earlier part of the period, when paper and ink was still the primary method of data storage, will have proved more durable than electronic storage, in which data has been lost due to the constant procession of different, competing storage devices. Anyhow, the world Robin (now a female named Reeve) finds (her)self in has late-20th/early 21st-century tech (mobile phones, microwaves), but a social structure from the period of 50 years before, with men going to work and women staying home.
Robin/Reeve, however, quickly discovers that the danger to (her)self lies precisely within the parameters of the experiment, and not with assassins without. Of course, she tries to do something about this, and the thrills start.
The book's a kick, with wild speculations, hat-tips to Franz Kafka, Alice Sheldon, Paul A. Linebarger, the old "The Prisoner" tv miniseries, and the computer worm that's featured so prominently in the book is named Curious Yellow. But maybe Mr. Stross isn't quite as clever as he thinks he is; sometimes the breathless first-person present-tense narration by Robin/Reeve devolves into cute or technobabble. And the ending feels rushed. But it will sustain your interest over the course of its 333 cramped pages packed with too-small print. (You'll need to visit your opthalmologist when you finally put the book aside.) Some publishers have been improving the look and feel of their small-size paperbacks. This publisher has not joined the party.