- Mass Market Paperback: 356 pages
- Publisher: St Martin's Press; New edition edition (15 May 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812576438
- ISBN-13: 978-0812576436
- Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.4 x 16.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,674,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Architects of Emortality (Future History) Mass Market Paperback – 15 May 2000
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"Stableford has triumphantly created his own niche of hard biological SF, containing the genre's most intelligently imagined marvels and nightmares." -David Langford "Stableford is very good at gradually unfurling his wheels-within-wheels plots, and he displays a commendable interest in exploring the consequences of biological advances." --"Washington Post Book World" on "Inherit the Earth"
Five hundred years in the future, there is a murder in New York City by the agency of genetically altered flowers, and a rejuvenated plant designer named Oscar Wilde must help Charlotte Holmes of the NYPD investigate.
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This particular book is set in his Emortality series, which envisages an earth where global warming has caused our current civilisation to collapse and gives rise to a human race where biological reproduction is no longer necessary - or even regarded as desirable.
Set hundreds of years in the future and peopled with characters who can hope and expect to live for at least two hundred years - and a fortunate few whose lifespans will stretch into thousands of years. So this is a society on the edge of dramatic change and into this mix there are a series of gruesomely imaginative murders. So gruesome that MegaMall, who controls most official events, puts a temporary embargo on the publicity machine. This means police officers Charlotte Holmes and Hal Watson are under a serious time constraint to solve them - and need help, which they get from the plant designer and historian Oscar Wilde.
However, this is far from being a straightforward science fiction whodunit. Stableford uses the classic crime scenario as background to some lengthy expositions about the nature of posthumanity - mostly when in the viewpoint of Oscar Wilde, who is by far the most entertaining and intriguing character in this cast of eccentrics. This is, I feel, the true engine that runs this novel and although I'm not a huge fan of this harder type of science fiction, Stableford is sufficiently skilful to pull it off. He manages to get the correct balance between his musings on the impact of increased longevity and keeping the pace up necessary to keep the reader turning the pages. In fact with was a refreshing change to read something a little more leisurely than the mandatory breakneck speed that science fiction crime novels seem to require, these days.
The flashes of tongue-in-cheek humour also helped to keep me entertained - again, something that isn't generally a feature of the genre. Stableford has some interesting points to make, while his long-suffering police officer, Charlotte Holmes, struggles to keep some kind of order in this sprawling investigation. The world is well constructed, with some nice touches in there.
All in all, a polished, well crafted book by a master writer. And if proof were needed that Stableford is all that - is the fact that this book comes in the middle of the Emortality series, yet I wasn't aware that it was a series. It didn't matter that I hadn't read any of the other books, I was still able to immediately access the situation and the characters without needing any prior knowledge. Neither did Stableford assume I was a former fan. Yipee! As it happens, I was so impressed with this enjoyable read, I shall certainly be looking out for more of Stableford's prolific output.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The cover does no justice to the story: it has nothing to do with or represents any scene from the book.
The story is a murder mystery set in the far future. People can live for two hundred years with nanotech stuff, but there has been a recent improvement, and now the age limit is unknown. The people who are killed are one hundred ninety three or four years old and due to kick the bucket soon anyway. That becomes the most intriguing part of the mystery: why kill some nearly dead people anyway? Whoever is doing it will probably outlive them.
Another part is the names of the cops on the case, Sergeant Holmes and Ins. Watson. It is something that is lost on no one, even if there has been a rift between now and then, and a lot of history has been lost. There is almost at every turn some mention of the 'gay 90's' era of the last century. Oscar Wilde is part of the team, and books or poems are referred to relentlessly. It gets to be that I felt like I was not really following the story because I was not conversant in these literary allusions.
But I did enjoy reading this book. It was interesting and the murder, while not solved completely, like a lot of them are: who, what, why, where, when, and how are all spelled out finally; it did make you feel the result was what was presented.
What I liked best was the seemingly logical continuation of present trends so unlike many futuristic visions: The increasing reliance on biotechnology - indeed the ultimate supremacy of biotech as opposed to silicone tech is a major theme throughout. The disappearance of religion and the resultant worship of youth and immortality, the loss of the family unit, the triumph of the market economy, the inexorable advance of science, the wars of terror and plagues, the vast eco projects. All of these are simply extensions of current trends.
The inclusion of Oscar Wilde and the literary puzzles from the 19th century was a stroke of genius. In fact, that character seemed to stand out about all others - even the detective heroine who understood that she was condemned to die after only 200 years of life.
And thus the question...when immortality is the norm, how does one view death? What does death mean when it becomes more rare by the day?
The mystery itself was intriguing if a tad week at the end but the methodology of the killer was startingly original. The race and the snappy dialogue (along with the philosophical musings of the author and the characters) more than made up for this small deficiency. In this - the second of the series - the author proves himself a visionary of the first order.
For a similar work, see A PHILOSOPHICAL MURDER, another futuristic detective story with literary and philosophical components.
Finding the perpetrator of five mysterious murders of prominent scientists dominates the plot of the story. Stableford teaches the reader how to commit the perfect murder-make sure your alibi includes being already dead yourself by utilizing a totally exotic murder weapon wielded by a killer robot who cannot be charged with the murder. On the down side the Oscar Wilde character was a pompous [butt] who at times insisted on proving how erudite he was but only slowed the story to a dead halt. All in all, however, a great book to curl up with on a rainy day.