Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recommending Stross

Writer Charles Stross has really come on strong this past decade with scintillating works of speculative fiction. All of his published novels have been released this decade. So, for readers wanting to find that "current writer" to follow, I highly recommend Stross for those not already on the bandwagon.

For me, it all started with Halting State. Stross had already been recommended to me but had stayed on "the reading list." A glowing review of this recent work persuaded me to make it, I ordered the hard cover shortly after release and found it a page-turner.

The novel is a near future piece that points out the growing threats inherent in cyber-technologies. Spying, hacking, all the usual privacy and control issues are brought to bare. However, in typical Stross fashion, it's the clever storytelling and personal relationships in it that make it such a joy to read.

After being so pleasantly surprised by the book, I ordered Accelerando. The time span of this book is vast. Unlike the comfortable near future that most of us can imagine to a degree, Stross pushes it far in Accelerando. The story is very well anchored through the characters. The patriarch, Manfred Macx, the women in his life, his child and grandchild provide the common threads that weave through expanses of time and space. It's a fascinating tale with loads of scientific aspects addressed from the singularity to world colonization. But it's not all a geekfest. The personal issues addressed are profound and the story is captivating.

Touted as a sort of sequel, Glasshouse loosely takes off in the same singularity-based universal state as Accelerando. Although there is a backdrop common among both novels, there is no continuation of characters. So, Glasshouse can easily be read without any primer required. The time frames in this book span two eras: a troubling yet murky period of the protagonist's past and the core storyline era which takes place in an archaeologically experimental bio-dome of sorts. The time setting for the experiment runs from late last century through current day. So, it's very interesting to see how future people laugh at our seemingly ludicrous lifestyles.

Common in Glasshouse, Accelerando and Halting State are insights into the human condition. Stross never forgets that common literary goal: help people understand life. He takes all of the technology and future conditions and casts them in a very personal way. It is this deft ability that makes him such a pleasure to read.