26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2007
This is an excellent book. Yes you get the clever posthuman stuff, identity, politics, society and everything but the story here is just great. Characters to care about don't hurt and an insight into how future historians might view 1950 to 2000 really makes you think and provides a few laughs too. This is the author's best book to date and that's saying something.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2007
I enjoyed Singularity Sky and its sequel, and admired Accelerando for its brave attempt to describe the transition of humanity through the technological singularity, but I really feel that this is Stross's finest book so far.
I say this not only because of his excellent and original depiction of a far-future society, but also because of the rich storyline and characters, which will be enjoyed even by those who do not consider themselves hard sci-fi junkies.
The plot could be described as a futuristic retelling of The Stepford Wives, rewritten as a contemporary science fiction novel instead of a 70's schlock horror story.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2008
It is the 27th century and Robin is recovering from a voluntary memory removal procedure. Human society is now multi-stellar with space-habitats, planets and vast ships connected by T-gates (which are basically wormholes). A-gates on the other hand, can break down one's body and reassemble it, sometimes somewhat differently; rejuvenate and repair; assemble any artefact or object whose pattern is in storage, or backup one's entire body just in case one is killed.
Humanity is recovering from a war in which a tailored virus called Curious Yellow rewrites one's memories and loyalties - and therefore public history - and through its spread the Human Polity broke apart into quarantined republics which sought to guard its borders against Curious Yellow.
Robin, on the advice of his therapist, decides to sign up for an experimental project whereby he will be locked into a sealed environment, along with many other people, for a minimum of three years. He is keen to do this as, for one thing, someone is trying to kill him.
However, when he emerges from an A-gate backup he finds himself in the induction room of the project and also discovers that his body is now female.
The project is ostensibly a sociological one. The participants have to live in a stereotypical society of the Nineteen Fifties. They are divided up into groups and each group is awarded points based on whether the individuals are conforming to the social mores of the time.
However, things begin to get sinister and Robin (who is now known as Reeve) starts getting messages from her old self in her dreams, telling her that she has been placed there undercover to find out exactly what is going on in the project.
Stross seems to like his feisty female characters. Granted, this is a male whose mind has been placed in a woman's body, but to all intents and purposes it's a female character. Despite an initial preference for men's jeans and boots, Robin/reeve settles down and embraces his new gender with some aplomb.
Stross also has a lot of fun with looking at the society of the (American) 1950s from the perspective of the 27th Century, especially since a lot of records and history were lost in the war, and much of the rest compromised by the effects of the virus.
Every Sunday the residents must attend Church where the Rev Fiore (one of the three founders of the project) publicly scolds those who have transgressed moral laws and praises those who haven't. At one point they also sing the `hymn', `First We Take Manhattan' which, for those of you who know this Leonard Cohen song and imagine it being sung this way, is a very surreal experience.
It's much darker novel than `Singularity Sky', although just as inventive in terms of the infrastructure of the background to the text.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
It is the 27th century. Urth is now legend, all have fled it, fleeing not only from a series of holocausts, but from their own horrific memories. Some will go as far as having a mind wipe...so that they might sleep again at night. Some will have no choice...
The result: billions living in artificial environments, undergoing psycho-therapy. It is a time of highly advanced technologies, where death is not always the end...alas...
The Glasshouse was once a prison. Robin, not knowing this, willing signs up to a programme that aimed to recreate life in the 20th century onwards. They are forced to take wives, attend church, etc--all in bodies, even sexes, not of their own, and with no memory of ever signing up. It soon becomes apparent that they are there for the long haul, with no way out, and the will to escape being gradually destroyed in cruelly psychological ways.
Wow. It has been said that reading Charles Stross' work is like being trapped in an ideas factory without a helmet. This is certainly true!
The first twenty or so pages were a bit slow and laden with too much technical information, but, the pace soon picked up, and the premise was certainly very interesting. I rarely read a book this though-provoking.
As well as the simple tale of the struggle of human life and, basically, a kidnapping where psychology is used against it's test subjects to create a realistic 'dark ages' environment (20th century onwards!) this book is also a potent comment on a vast array of subjects. In Glasshouse, Charles Stross talks of the severe danger we face from information loss, the dangers of immortality, and even advanced technology--somehow managing to make all this crucial to the story and page-turning!
I also felt it was rather clever while he was doing all this, that the characters were looking back on the 'dark ages' and wondering how we could have coped at all with things that the reader finds perfectly normal. Such as cooking food, and books made from paper...
There was never any pretence that this book was going to be at all humorous, but, although deeply disturbing in places (and sometimes, just downright weird!), this book is definitely gripping and fun to read.
There are some great lines, too: Now let's go upstairs. We've got a library to open before we can overthrow the government..
An excellent SF book but make sure you have your 'thinking head' on when you read it! I look forward to reading more of Charles Stross' work :) 8 out of 10.
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on 3 December 2014
Stross has an excellent manner in his storytelling. Throughout Glasshouse I found myself constantly wanting to know more. Every time new information is given other mysteries surface. It's a bold approach but one that pays off as the intrigue keeps you glued to the pages. By the conclusion of the story you'll find everything fitting into place perfectly, you'll find the characters engaging and worthy of empathy but most of all you'll find a satisfying conclusion to a well told science fiction story.
Bit confusing at first - but it all comes clear.
Mind you it was confusing for the story hero - so that makes it more real.
Interesting concept - I liked it - the memory wipe concept reminded me of Arnie in Total Re-call, but thats as far as the similarity goes.
Interesting developments flow into the story regularly and it made a good and enjoyable read.
Read on the Kindle Paperwhite in complete darkness!
(Cos it can do this - we have the technology)
An interesting novel about an ex soldier from the far future who has had 'surgery' to erase his memories and then discovers that his previous enemies are still after him so he signs up for a closed experiment.
It's loads of fun, rather complicated and I'd have liked to know far more about the original society our hero lives in before we jump to the closed society of the experiment.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2014
I never thought I'd be down-checking a Stross novel, but I'm afraid this one's not up to his usual standard.
It never does much more than state the basics of the story until around halfway through the book, and then it all happens at once.
Although you've guessed much of what's to come, at the end there's an accelerated bit of revelation and resolution that clears things up without being anywhere near as entertaining as it could have been.
As it's another one of those fashionable exotic-science-for-magic efforts with matter transmitters,body-hopping and universal assemblers, the fun is in showing our hero(ine)'s reaction to the limits on what they can do in the place they find themselves in. Unfortunately the gag soon wears thin, and you start to wish for a pick-up in pace that just doesn't happen soon enough.
The bridge crew of the Enterprise did it 45 years ago. In fact they kept on doing it because it was cheap! The Stepford Wives did some of it. It isn't really any better now. Only Mork from Ork got away with it as only the late great Mr Williams could.There's plenty of great techno-babble, and the slow revelation of what our hero really is comes over well, but for someone that can write "Accelerando" or the "Laundry Files" (more,more!) this just didn't play correctly. Too much time was spent in M&B land.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2007
Charles Stross is just about the best SF author writing today for ideas, originality and for sheer cracking storylines. Glasshouse looks at humanity as it may be centuries from now, with a window on war and politics that illustrates the old saying, in the story at least, that 'the past is another polity'. You are grabbed by a strong plotline and by characters that are not only finely-drawn but are redrawn by the malleability of memory and body that is brought by advanced technology. There is also a love story in there and an emotional edge that gives the climax real bite. Sell valuable possessions if that is what it takes to get a copy.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This was my first Charles Stross book and I am very impressed. It is well written, excellently paced and brims with inventive ideas. It contains one of the best descriptions of how a "posthuman" society may function I have come across in hard(ish) sci fi.
The plot is complex and to describe it would spoil many of the highlights of the book; suffice it to say it is an espionage/detective story with a dark comedic undertone.
So why only 4 stars?
The ending - it is very rushed, although I must concede that it ends well. Even so, as it dashed to a conclusion I could not help but wonder what Neal Asher or Richard Morgan would have done with the final sequence, involving as it does... ah, but that would be telling too much.
I would definitely recommend this book to others and will make a point of tracking down Stross's other works.