While this book was sometimes difficult to read, it was a fascinating look at identity and society - what makes you "you" - if one's in a different body, is one a different person? Robin/Reeve and friends discover the truth about the "Glasshouse" in very interesting ways.
Very good novel by Charles Stross. I have read other novels by him (Accelerando, for one) and I found this novel to be easier to follow and more captivating at the same time. I read it in two days, and I can't remember the last time I plowed through a novel that quickly. The characters were engaging, and the storyline was great. I definitely recommend this one.
This was a really fascinating book. Stross has managed to create a setting that looks back at 1950s to 1990s culture from the perspective of far-future humanity. That juxtaposition of world views makes for a rich set of conflicts, and the book really shines when those conflicts are the subject at hand. Intertwined with that is mixed a plot of the aftereffects of a viral-based information war actually set in that far-future humanity.
The culture shock portions of the novel are by far the best. Characterization is wonderful, and there is lots of humor to be had in those crazy things historical humans used to do. The war stuff was not nearly as good.
Unfortunately, that really hurts the end of the book, where the two plots twist together. You get the feeling Stross may have felt the same way, because the ending seems very rushed.
Robin lives in the 27th century where what makes you a person is your consciousness that you can move into new bodies. Everyone is almost immortal as long as you can back yourself up frequently in an A-gate. Thus, some people choose to have some memories wiped. Robin wakes up in one of these facilities with more of a memory wipe than usual and finds himself signing up for a social experiment in which the members will live like the dark ages--the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
I really enjoyed the world Stross created in this book. His version of the future is clearly fully visioned and fleshed out in his own mind. This always makes for the best scifi books. I also really enjoyed that GLBTQ issues exist in this book without being the focus of the book. The focus is on war crimes, memory, and what makes you you, but there are definitely subplots involving GLBTQ issues in a world where people can choose their own external male/femaleness and sexuality then are suddenly plopped into an experiment where they can't do that. The plot is complex and engaging, although the ending was a bit of a let-down. I wish Stross had ensured his ending lived up to the world he created in the meat of the book.
I recommend this book to scifi fans and GLBTQ readers and advocates.
Robin, the male protagonist, has gone through multiple mind-wipes and body transfigurations. As the story starts, he's just come out of one and is soon heading for another as part of an experiment to study the dark ages (1950-2040). Robin is dodging some old enemies, though neither he nor the reader knows exactly whom.
Soon he, now she, is playing a role in 20th century suburbia, allowing Stross to take swipes at our customs and mores as well as our gender stereotyping.
Interesting read from a variety of angles. I'll be looking for more of Stross.