The Glass House

Amazon ASIN: 
Part Number:

I find I need to get in a particular mood to read a Charlie Stross novel. This suits me fine, since once I'm in such a mood there are few other authors I find satisfy it. I generally find myself in such a mood about once a year, which means Charlie is writing them slightly faster than I'm reading them.

Finding myself in the right mood, I picked up The Glass House, which must have been sitting on the "to read" shelf for at least a year, and found myself engrossed in it for about a week, which is fairly quick for me (I can struggle through a book for months).

The novel is set in the 27th century, in roughly the same universe as Accelerando, though it would be a little far fetched to describe it as a sequel. Mankind is spread across the galaxy, mostly living in giant cylinders orbiting brown dwarf stars, linked by wormholes that allow instant transfer from place to place. People live for hundreds of years, rebuilding their bodies as they need to, taking on different body shapes as takes their fancy. Living so long inevitably means people do things they'd rather forget, so memory surgery has become routine, and, Robin, our protagonist has just woken up in a memory clinic after deep erasure, wondering who he used to be.

As it becomes apparent that someone is trying to kill him, escaping from who he used to be becomes a matter of life and death, so he is persuaded to volunteer for a archeological experiment to recreate a lost period of history. Sealed off in a simulation of the late twentieth century, Robin soon discovers that the experiment has a dark undercurrent and sets about investigating.

I found the process of reading this book interesting (I think I may have analysed it more than previous Stross books). There's something about his writing style that I find fresh and exciting when I first pick up the book. He builds wonderfully strange worlds, yet manages to make them sound familiar and comfortable. This inevitably involves a fair bit of info-dumping, which from may authors I find intolerable, but Stross manages to lead the reader through it in an engaging, chatty way that often means you don't realise it was an info-dump till you get to the end of it.

I think in particular the contrast between the 27th century and the recreated 20th century are fascinating, as are the descriptions of our world from a 27th viewpoint. There are, of course, lots of little details that the designers recreating the 20th century didn't quite get right, and that makes it doubly interesting.

As I find usual with a Stross novel, I found the writing style engaging for the first third or so of the novel, but found it a bit hard going towards the end, when the info-dumps seemed to get more obvious and less necessary. The multitide of ideas kept exploding through the novel, and that also helped to keep me hooked. However for about the last quarter, I found both of these were getting a little tiring, and I just wanted to get to the end of it and find out what happens.

These minor niggles aside, I found this an enjoyable and engaging read, and I would recommend it.

Providing you're in the right mood!