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GLASSHOUSE by Charles Stross Kirkus Star


by Charles Stross

Pub Date: July 4th, 2006
ISBN: 0-441-01403-8
Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Far-future mind control, from British author Stross (Accelerando, 2005, etc.).

By the 27th century, death need not be permanent: People routinely make backup copies of themselves; disease and old age can simply be edited out. Human civilization, scattered across the galaxy in diverse habitats connected via wormhole gates, is slowly recovering from a prolonged and brutal war against an insidious memory-deleting, mind-controlling cyberworm called Curious Yellow. Narrator Robin, a citizen of the Invisible Republic, emerges from a memory edit, guessing he wanted to remove painful memories of the conflict. He meets, and soon falls in love with, Kay—and realizes that somebody’s trying to kill him—because of what he was? Or something his former self knew? His robot psychiatrist advises him to join a closed experimental community where he can safely recuperate. So, after his next routine backup, Robin wakes in the Glasshouse—in a female body. Robin, now Reeve, is part of a sociological experiment aimed at recapitulating a long-lost environment: Earth during the 1950s. Glasshouse residents, however, are expected to conform, and there are heavy penalties for deviants. Reeve agrees to marry big, unhappy, skeptical Sam, and tries to assimilate. But things are not what they seem. The Glasshouse is run by two notorious Curious Yellow collaborators, Major-Doctor Fiore and Bishop Yourdon. Meanwhile, Robin’s memories begin to surface. He was a member of the combat Linebarger Cats and later became an agent—sent into the Glasshouse, memories suppressed to evade the censors, to find out what’s really going on.

A perfectly tuned combination of gravitas and glee (the literary/cultural references are a blast). Stross’s enthralling blend of action, extrapolation and analysis delivers surprise after surprise.