In the same vein that William Gibson set the standard for envisioning an interconnected, online virtual reality 30 years ago, Charles Stross is setting the standard today for the evolution of the development in an online, virtual reality world that is coming to play an ever greater role in our lives today.
While Rule 34 can be viewed as a sequel to his previously excellent, Halting State, only locale (Scotland) and Inspector Liz have been retained. This story begins with a murder with several unusual circumstances. As the story unfolds, other seemingly independent players are introduced with eventual intersections that become quite complex involving more bizarre murders, international financial wizardry, and software designed to ferret out crime. All the while, Stross is exploring possibilities in online capabilities as well as developments in manufacturing analogous to earlier developments of electrical dynamos leading to small, electric motors. As far as near future stories go (over the next 25 years), Stross does an excellent job of creating a plausible, believable world that could develop.
Most fascinating about the story is Stross selection of a multiple, third person narrative style with a continual stream of consciousness. The reader is always inside the head of a character getting a front row seat to all the action as well as internal commentary that includes witty and humorous observations on how things do and don't work out well.
The narrator does an exceptional job of rendering Scottish accents in a manner that is perfectly understandable in addition to other non-Scottish characters.
After the moon has been colonized, humanity gets down to the business of exploitation (an astronomical array on the far side) as well as utilizing Antarctica for both a dry run for a manned Mars mission and an isolated facility serving as a nanotech lab (due to fear of potential catastrophe). Upsetting all these carefully laid plans is the discovery of an alien nanotech structure growing on the moon. What ensues is a rather inept series of attempts to discern the function and intent of the evolving alien structure.
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