Slow Down Charlie! On Glasshouse and Merchant Princess

September 10th, 2006

Plot Spoilers Within

I really do love Stross’ work, he has several short stories that rank among my all time favorites, and his ideas are brilliantly silly, optimistic, and yet insightful.

But I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with his novel length work. He keeps making scintillating implicit promises as the works open that dissolve half way through into frothy substanceless confections.


I just finished Glasshouse. Nice handling of what a post-Singularity society means for identity, multiplicity, etc. Brilliant to see Curious Yellow emerge as a plot device. (though oddly nothing by way of acknowledgment of the original, at least that I noticed)

But the implicit promise is that if we read through the somewhat awkward handling of 1950s fasco-dystopia (a 2006 fasco-dystopia would have been more interesting), and the even more awkward handling of “gender issues”, we’re going to find out what the “Censorship Wars” payload was. Maybe I’m too dumb to read between the lines, but by my reckoning the book builds, and builds, and then just fell off a cliff without any resolution, and certainly without delivering on answering that one big question.

Merchant Princess

Similarly Stross made us a promise that we were going to get ring side seats to watch Miriam go modern on the past’s collective mercantilist ass. Thats what I paid my ticket to see, a sort of what-if, “terra-forming” novel for capitalism, the game you always wanted to play with Civilization, but were never able to. The political viking in-fighting is fine and all for a couple of pages, but the story of the princess, the arranged marriage, and the evil prince really never needs to be told again, with or without blunderbusses.

So maybe slow it down? 10 novels in like 2 years might be pushing it a bit hard? I don’t know much about the economics of writing, but I’ll happily sign a petition to get you bigger advances, but take more time on the next couple.

That said, I’ll be buying Jennifer Morgue when it comes out. Call me a sucker.

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