Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
on 20 December 2012
Stross is an exceptionally inventive writer, with a deliriously nasty flavour to his writing, but while Rule 34 is a smartly-constructed, very readable and diverting novel, this near-future cybercrime thriller left me feeling more than a bit disappointed.
The plot is sound, logical and well-worked to a satisfactory climax. The characterisation is decent, if fairly perfunctory. The structure of the novel, built around three points of view (the cop, the killer and the chump), is smart and suits the needs of the plot. The prose is clear, cliche-free and witty. Some reviewers have found the novel hard to follow, and found the snippets of Scots dialect distracting, but neither will be an issue for readers who have moved on to the literary equivalent of solid foods.
So why the disappointment? Because Stross is so inventive, and because he's got literary chops. His portayal of a near-future world crippled by ongoing economic gloom and out-of-control IT developments is fascinating and convincing, if more than a little depressing. The decision to use this as the backdrop for a fairly trivial story (essentially, it's a police procedural with cybertrappings and an almost literal deus ex machina that, rather smartly, isn't a cop-out) is a big let-down. Don't get me wrong, the setting and the plot are cleverly and robustly linked, but you can't help feeling that there's far more interesting stuff to hear about the world of the novel, and, maddeningly, that Stross is more than capable of delivering that. It's as though he's settled for the soft option. Because he's a very capable writer, the soft option is still a clever, gripping novel that delivers, on its own terms, a fine story, but it's also clear from the novel itself that he's capable of something far more substantial. Thus, for this reader, Rule 34 became more and more annoying as it went along, because of its lack of ambition and the way it became increasingly evident that, if he chose to push himself, Stross could deliver a truly stunning work set in this world.
Must try harder, as they used to say in school reports.