Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling
Holy Fire (Amazon.com)
Holy Fire (Amazon.co.uk)
Holy Fire (Powell's Books - new or secondhand)
h o l y f e c k !
Last month, I found myself several times guilty of the somewhat
unsavoury practice of engaging in brief conversation with prominent
authors, whilst hiding my embarrassment at not having totally immersed
myself in their literature. One such example was Mr. Bruce Sterling,
the man behind the legendary Dead
I had read various articles by him, and had soldiered
through the disappointing Difference Engine, co-written with William
Gibson, but after having witnessed Sterling speak in his caustic
yet endearing style at South
By South West, I purchased a copy of 'Holy Fire'.
I couldn't put it down. A literate greyhound on amphetamines, I
imbibed the pages until I reached that curious dissatisfaction of
having finished a good book too fast, instead of giving it the mastication
In 'Holy Fire', Sterling amplifies and projects into the future
our current obsessions with healthcare and longevity, setting his
story in the late 21st century. The twenty-something generations
of today, in a desperate, almost unconscious bid for immortality,
are alive, and in their one-hundred and twenties. Fifteen percent
of the world's population work in the healthcare industry, but most
of the wealth is owned by the wrinkly dinosaurs - none of it has
filtered down to the younger generations. Many of the younguns,
conscious and sceptical of the longevity denied of them, ignore
the high castles of the elderly, content to engage in lives laden
with more fulfilling, hedonistic pursuits.
At 94, Mia Zimmerman has a few years left on this mortal coil,
literally suffering, as she is, from the posthuman condition. After
visiting a dying ex-boyfriend's conapt (and his wonderful talking
dog, Plato), and encountering a few more human catalysts, she realises
that *she has not lived*, and sets out to do so. She undergoes experimental
biomedical treatment, a rebuilding of her flesh to emerge as a 94
year old woman -- with the body of a 20 year old.
Understandably, this radical change has serious mental side-affects,
and fueled by her ambition *to live*, Mia absconds from her guinea
pig existence, finding herself on a flight to Frankfurt, the beginning
of a crazy carefree stampede through 21st-century *living city*
of Stuttgart, consorting with vagabonds and gypsies in Munich, modeling
in Venice and Rome, whilst living and loving in Prague.
It was a relief that Sterling should implement a similar subcutaneous
form of technofuturistic aesthetic to authors with whom I was already
familiar, such as William Gibson (Virtual Light, Idoru) and Neal
Stephenson (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age). The days of 'putting wires
in our heads' has been consigned to the nineties (I argue that we're
already sort of in the next decade), as he weaves high technology
into the patchwork culture of central and eastern Europe, the virtual
world becoming a seamless new dimension interchangeable from the
café and pivnice world of 'Praha'.
Rather than fetishising hypothetical technology, he tells the *story*
using the tools of technology, Mia - or Maya, as she becomes, a
beautiful, ruthless, scruffy, moneyless nobody, in possession of
one of the most palatial virtual worlds in existence - left to her
by the by her deceased ex-lover (she didn't want the talking dog).
A beautiful, meta-contemporary publication.
(Review by Daev)
barry at November 2, 2005 6:50 PM
Review originally published in Ept
Other articles about Bruce Sterling:
a decade ago ago, cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling put forward a
vision of a multi-purpose, wearable computer. He dubbed it 'Computer
as Furoshiki'. Blather's Dave Walsh asks him if the fabric PC is
any closer to reality
Dave Walsh talks to Bruce Sterling about the Dead Media Project and Viridian Design Movement