Charles Stross

Living On Food
What's Your IP?

This is Charles Stross at his best. Tons of mind-blowing ideas, good characterization, and a bizarre and compelling plot.

It's hundreds of years in the future, in the Accelerando universe. You can rebuild your body however you want, and also change your memory. The main character, Robin, has had a major memory wipe. And he doesn't remember why.

As he's struggling with a number of post-memory-wipe psychological issues, he ends up getting enlisted in an experiment.

The experiment is an attempt to reconstruct a pre-singularity community based on a scarcity economy. Because of the Censorship Wars, not much data remains from those times. So the purported goal of the experiment is to get some first-hand data on people living in that era, targeted at roughly 1990-2010.

Of course, it's not that simple to do, given the lack of good historical resources. Also, the actual goals of the experiment may not be congruent with the stated goals. And so what we see is a community that is based on a particularly horrid prescriptive view of how that society should be, rather than an actual descriptive view of the way society was (is).

Part of the subtext is the effectiveness of social controls. By manipulating "bonus points", the controllers have the participants enforce all of the regulation. Creepy, and with a sense of plausibility that makes you start seeing an uncomfortable amount of modern-day parallels.

And, as I'm sure he intended, it gave me an intense visceral reaction of loathing for modern-day society. From insane, sexist religious doctrines, to the horrifyingly inadequate state of current medicine, to the inevitability of death after a mere few 7 or 8 decades of life -- gah! Get me out of here!

At its heart, it's a mystery, and it supplies quite a satisfying number of twists and detours as it progresses, all the while slowly revealing more and more of the fascinating future history of the previous century. Add in solid romance, and a wide variety of villains, and you end up with a very good, and quite mentally engaging, read. I highly recommend it.

All material Copyright © 2009–2014 Ulysses Somers, except where otherwise noted.