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Rule 34 reviews

There are two types of book review that matter: the ones in the trade press that come out a couple of months before the book (and on the basis of which bookstore buyers decide how many to pre-order), and the ones in the regular press that readers see, usually coinciding with or following publication, and which lead readers to decide whether to buy a copy.

"Rule 34" isn't out for another (mumble) seven weeks, but the trade press reviews are showing up ...

Here's Publishers Weekly, who say:

"Hugo winner Stross blends plausible near-future SF and crime in this brisk sequel to 2007's Halting State ... each section builds on the others, making the whole more than the sum of its parts."
And it gets a starred write-up in Kirkus Book Reviews:
"Another detective joins the celebrated ranks of Edinburgh's finest, this one with Stross' distinctive science-fictional twist ... Dazzling, chilling and brilliant."
ALA's Booklist (subscription only) says
"The plot, with its all-too-likely extrapolation of cybercrime, is both a good read and a warning."
That's not all they say, but if you want to read more you can click on the links. (Except for Booklist, unfortunately.)

Finally, Chris Brookmyre said:

"Rule 34 is the most densely textured, pungent and tangibly convincing depiction of our cyber near-future since Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. It is also very, very funny in a way that is quite exquisitely wrong."
(And if you don't know who he is, you're missing out on one of Scotland's national treasures.)



Charlie, we already knew all that stuff.


Maybe, but it needs to be on the web somewhere for folks googling on "Charlie Stross Rule 34 Review".


Of course, what we really want to know is whether there's a scene in the legendary London pub The Frog and Tourettes. I suspect I'm going to have to buy a copy to find out. Curse you, Stross, and your wily ways!

Also, is it written in the second person?


also very, very funny in a way that is quite exquisitely wrong

Which is a large part of why I enjoy your writing so much.

Looking forward to reading it.


Also, is it written in the second person?


(As my former editor at Orbit said, "it's like Halting State turned up to 11".)


Ask yourself, what is the purpose of this blog?


also very, very funny in a way that is quite exquisitely wrong

love that line, too...

But Charlie, your best asset is Paul Krugman. He's becoming more and more the true heavyweight of the blogosphere and he loves your writing (well, you're likely to know that).

Especially, since most informed tech addicts and SF fans know you by now.

Dark humour, near future social developments, social network revolution that sounds like a perfect fit for the typical Krugman reader and many of those are bloggers and journalists.


I believe a review copy is somewhere in his in-tray ...


This all sounds great, this is the book that I am most looking forward to this year. I've already been onto Mike in Transreal asking him to keep me a hardcover, didn't realise I was being entirely too early!


Last night I started reading Halting State for the third time, just so the characters and plot will be fresh in my head when I read R34. Can't wait.


This might just be the book I buy in hardback instead of waiting for the mass market paperback. It's going to break over thirty years of book-buying history, but dammit...


Charlie, that was a compliment, not a serious critique. I'm totally happy that you're pimping your book, and that you've got a new book to pimp, (though given the state of my finances, I may have to wait for the paperback. After all, I am asking my wife to give up her cable TV until the bills are paid. ~Sigh~)

Of course, I'll probably read it in the aisle at Barnes and Noble, then buy it in paperback. I'm not impatient or anything...


Good, I added the links to the Wikipedia entry ( Those American wikipedians seem to still be crazy about not having much mention of "Rule34(internet_meme)". I wonder if this will force the issue.


"...and [most] tangibly convincing depiction of our cyber near-future since Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash."

Which would make it a more "tangibly convincing depiction of our cyber near-future" than Rainbows End; that's good company. :-)


Talking of reviews there's This piece which shows how the "literati" are still ignorant, uneducated, out-of-touch, and in my personal judgement, STUPID. They really can't cope with SF, which they continue to refer to as "sci-fi". Probably because I doubt if they have got one science qualification, even at GCSE level, and their poor little brains can't cope.

Yes, I do hold them in contempt, btw, for the same reason I'm holding the judges/lawyers in contempt over privacy injunctions in the days of the interwebs ....


For ignorance just see this quote

"an original theatrical typescript of Capek’s R.U.R, the play upon which Fritz Lang’s trailblazing film Metropolis was based. "

Totally different plot


I wonder; does this mean that you can't have p0rn of Rule 34, or just that you can't have p0rn of the Wikipedia page for "Rule 34 (internet meme)"? The place where this ruling makes utterly no sense is that there actually is a Wikipedia entry for "Bondage (sechsual practice [may be my disambiguation; I can't be bothered checking the entry])".


I love the 1, repeat 1, comment on the piece (by fledermaus, in case more are added).


Here's my favourite bit from that review Accompanying this nu-feminist slant is a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood played on a video loop. It's a coup for the exhibition, although given that Atwood is arguably the greatest living female sci-fi author, the video could probably do with a few more headphones for peak visiting hours.

I think over half of the women in F&SF would take exception to that, especially since Atwood herself regularly complained she wrote 'Speculative Fiction', without those 'talking squids in outer space'.


Erm .. paws4thot:

"Fledermaus" is me.... Fledermaus was also our previous Birman tom-kitten, master of all he sneered at. The current one is Ratatosk See HERE for example.

I hope you also welcome our feline masters?


I did not know that.

I've said this before, but "paws4thot" comes from a posting name I've used on I Can Haz Cheezburger (and now related sites) for some years, and that many other blogosphere sites decline to accept posts from my e-mail address without that specific usertag.


I think that's it; a huge ignorance.

Brian Aldiss: Greybeard. Of course, he's a man, so the originality of P.D. James is not affected.

We're on the inside of SF. We can see the weaknesses of the exhibition and the reports, and we also know just how much of even the lasting SF is camouflaged as fun adventure fiction. But the ideas are there, and when the literati extol the originality of one of their own, we sigh and roll our eyes.

Granted, they can easily not know. There are genres of fiction I only know from carping stereotypes. And there are things which are the commonplaces, which don't need to be explained, and bemuse the outsider.

Does Margaret Atwood even know why "The door dilated." is so important? Jo Walton's "inclueing" isn't just something SF needs, but I doubt it's the sort of tool that Dickens felt he needed.

Are the books we all study at school incompetent by today's standards, or are they the work of the literary equivalents of the pre-industrial blacksmith, under the spreading chestnut tree?

Could "Halting State" have been written without an audience exoposed to the narrative of Adventure and Zork and pick-your-own gamebooks?

The exhibition has a different context to the fields that we know.


I don't think the editors have a problem with sex at all. They don't like "Rule34(internet_meme)" because they don't want random stuff from the internet messing up their nice encyclopedia. They give print sources more weight than internet sources, and so on.


Any plans for a book tour in the New England region of the USA? I would love to get a signed copy, particularly since Boskone is out for 2012. (Of course my better half and I may need to attend Satellite III instead!)

Nice to see the reviews runnning your way, not that I would expect anything else. TomP


Ouch, that article is painful. If good literature is about exploring the human condition, I'd argue that almost everything remotely new in literature is happening in science fiction. They're probably turned off by science fiction because they can't figure out who the Christ figure is, or what a stasis field symbolizes.


I have no money right now, so I probably won't be buying Rule 34 when it comes out. Can I humbly request that any spoilers on this blog are well flagged please? (This is as much aimed at my fellow commenters as our gracious host)


Any plans for a book tour in the New England region of the USA?


A "book tour" implies someone paying big bucks for the author to sign books. Touring is expensive and personal appearances don't sell enough books to repay the investment directly -- they are good for publicity, though, so think of them as a form of advertising. (They're also grueling, but that's another matter.)

The payee can be the publisher, or it can be yours truly. Publishers don't spring for them unless (a) the author is gigantic, or (b) it's week #1 out the gate and they're trying to game the bestseller list. And I can't afford to do a US-wide tour off my own ticket.

If "Rule 34" hits the NYTimes top ten and stays there, expect a hastily-cobbled-together tour. That's all.

(I will be doing Worldcon in Chicago next summer. And I hope to pass through NYC or Boston on my way there and back. I may be visiting the USA at other times in 2012, so watch this space.)


Yes, I'll flag any discussion thread for spoilers as "spoilers present", and delete spoiler comments on other threads.


Sorry if you've answered this somewhere else, Charlie, but do you need to have read Halting State to enjoy Rule 34?


do you need to have read Halting State to enjoy Rule 34?


Two of the minor characters of "Halting State" appear in "Rule 34", but it's not an actual sequel as such -- it's just set in the same continuity, five years later.


Dave Bell @ 22 Echoes of, among others, Dunsany ....

Round, bright and green as the hill of the King of Elfland, beyond those fields we know at the other side of the twilight, perhaps?


The "human condition" is a term I really hate. As far as I'm concerned, it's something to transcend.


@∀ p:Person • ≠ "Charlie Stross"

Rule 34 is terrific. I know because I've read it...

(Slinks off stage right, to moans of jealousy.)


Thanks for the advance read!


Depends how you define it. Whatever we do, no matter how awesome or exotic, becomes part of the human condition by virtue of the fact that we're human. I didn't necessarily mean "human condition" to mean "inescapable frailty."


Wrong answer. Shurely the correct answer is 'you have to buy and read all my books to enjoy Rule 34....'


maybe we can have the review translated to morsecode and beeped in signals on my laptop, like in a neal stephensons cryptonomicon


Drat, and here I was hoping you'd written it in Second Person Plural POV.

That would qualify as stunt-writing, I believe.


I had one of those stupid moments today where I went into a bookshop and was looking for Rule 34. Didn't even have any of the Merchant's series I hadn't read (missing the last 2 )

Did have Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying though.

Still, came out with a armful of books and a big grin after to talking to the sales guy at the checkout (very funny guy). Read one already ...


"...originality of P.D. James is not affected."

Took me a moment to catch that. I don't think of James as an SF novelist. Her Children of Men is SF after a fashion, I suppose. But to mention her as a major female presence in SF...?

I will admit that she taught me to enjoy a well-written detective story after I read Children of Men. But all that means is that she is a good author who can do SF when she wants to.


Which of the following purchasing options puts more money into your pocket? * Online, from Amazon * Online, from Book Depository * In person, from a Waterstones * [Another online outlet?]

This is going to be holiday reading, so I'll either buy it upon arrival or prior to travel from the continent. We'll be in a provincial English town, so Waterstones is my only option for bricks-and-mortar. (I could buy it from my local book shop, but as they'd charge a huge mark-up for the privilege of buying a book in English, this in an unattractive proposition.)


Book Depository beats Amazon. In person, from Waterstones beats online purchasing. And in person from a small bookstore beats Waterstones.


And a small bookstore need not actually be in person. Borderlands Books, in San Francisco, for example -- they get some business for me for various specialty orders (foreign books, or waiting for something to show up). I've never been there, but they mail books to me, so I'm a happy customer.


That's nice and clear, thanks. I'll see if I can't find a decent independent bookstore not too far from where we'll be staying. Otherwise, Waterstones it is.


I'll be buying it online, but from a small bookstore. I should have dropped in the last time I was in Edinburgh, although my personal finances thank me for not doing so.


Charlie, this is a little off-topic, but you might like it - someone seems to be thinking of your work:


I always believed the "human condition" was a term dreamed up by French intellectuals. The many who jumped at the chance to collaborate with the Nazis and then needed many ways to say everybody did it. Mother of mercy read what is literary now. If you don't need a degree to read it, it's no good. If real people like it, it's bad. There can be no good end. Or am I out of date or too American.


Your belief is so full of wrongness I'm at a loss for where to begin.


While we're on the topic of references to OGH's work, am I the only one to suspect that Randall Munroe has read Accelerando recently?


Drat, and here I was hoping you'd written it in Second Person Plural POV.

Scots does have a second person plural; it's "youse".


You need to attend, or at least register for, Satellite 3* anyway!

*I have no connection with S3 except for being friends or acquantances with most of the committee and with the GOH!


Scots does have a second person plural; it's "youse". Well, it's normally "youse yins", but they're both understandable.


I'm not sure why that has any particular reference to Accelerando rather than being generally true. Charlie has previously commented how 'smart' phones drop IQ points when roaming abroad, and this is a similar point.


A reality imitating fiction moment: Gold-farming in a Chinese forced-labor camp



Please note that Charlie has now posted a new article on this, so replies should be over there.


Not to mention Pittsburgh Penguins fans!


French intellectuals. well it was a joke. like book reviews that miss the point


Various dialects of US English also have plural third person pronouns: "Youse" is one. Also: you guys, you folks, you people, youns, 'mongst ye, y'all, all y'all.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 24, 2011 6:55 PM.

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