I received a copy of Glasshouse by Charles Stross for my birthday (thanks David & Jennifer!) and started reading it over the weekend. I finished it yesterday due to a CalTrain ride and I thought I'd talk about it a little. It's fairly common to see claims on the internet that Glasshouse is a sequel to Accelerando but I don't really see it. It's possible they are set in the same timeline but I don't see any particular reason to assume that and I can't easily find any quotes from Mr. Stross that state it's a sequel. The back jacket copy is "Praise for Accelerando", but that doesn't make the two books linked. I was sort of waiting throughout the book for a shoe of Accelerando-relation to drop and it never does.

I've read two Stross books on airplanes - Singularity Sky and The Merchant Trade and both times I wish I had brought something else. Not that they aren't good books but they are too dense to read for hours on end. I read the Accelerando ebook on my Palm in small doses and I think I would have totally lost it if I to spend several hours straight reading Accelerando. So I would not have normally considered taking Glasshouse with me on the train except I was already into it enough to realize it wasn't "normal" for Stross.

Accelerando is a hell of a good read, but it doesn't have that much story. Accelerando is a setting, it's a mood. The whole book is about what it would be like to live through a Vingean Singularity - with humans becoming something that can only be described as "post-human". It's taking VR to the logical conclusion. But the story is just a vehicle for touring the universe. Glasshouse inverts that. It has a lot of the same underlying assumptions as Accelerando but it's a gripping story first, and a tour of a future world second.

I'm not going to delve into spoiler territory, there's plenty of spoiler info available on the web (see the Amazon reviews) if you want that sort of thing. I will say that Glasshouse isn't for the faint of heart or the SF newbie. The strongest link I see to Accelerando is that it almost takes the end of Accelerando as assumed backstory. This is a strong statement but I mean it. If you're not prepared to assume that practical interstellar teleportation means "backing up" people, and from there it's a small jump to editing people - both in terms of memories and then in terms in their physical body, then Glasshouse is probably not for you. In the opening portions of the book there is a character who flips between a four-armed and two-armed form pretty much at a whim. There's a solid theoretical underpinning for this, but I'm not sure it would make sense to somebody who didn't immediately jump from teleportation "gates" to backups and multiple copies of the same person. If you're current on your science fiction reading this should be straightforward - but if your thinking about teleportation stops at the Star Trek transporter then you might get left behind by the whirlwind introduction.

John Scalzi talks about how Accelerando just isn't that accessible for the non-initiate - here's the best link I can find right now (although I think there's a better essay about it I'm too lazy to go grab my copy of Coffee Shop and I'm failing to pull it up on the Whatever's search page). I think Glasshouse is probably even worse about assuming the background knowledge.

So that's my capsule review: better story than Accelerando, but even more of a "Here we go, try to see if you can keep up" exercise in concepts. I liked it a lot - but I've read Accelerando twice so I was able to take the technology in stride.

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