Holy shit, I finally finished Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling. I've started and stopped with this book so many times that it took me nigh on two and a half months to finish it. It's not that long, folks. It's just hard to get through. My first inclination is to trash the hell out of this book, but sometimes it is necessary to reflect on things before you judge them. Make no mistake, I have little good to say about my experience with reading this book, but I cannot wholly condemn it either.
Holy Fire follows the exploits of Mia Ziemann, a 94 year old gerontocrat, who basically sheds her skin and turns her safe life upside down. In the near future medical technology has grown so that it is possible to live well beyond 100 years, so long as one is careful and plays by the rules. Mia realizes one day that she has wasted the life that she has so carefully tried to protect and maintain. She undergoes a new and risky life extension treatment and becomes young again. On the outside she looks to be around 20 years old. But, on the inside the new Maya senses something much older and somewhat familiar lurking. The new Maya cracks up, goes on the lamb, leaving the sensors and cameras that were installed to monitor her progress behind. She becomes a fugitive from the law.
Many things could have happened at this point. I admit I was pretty excited at the prospects. Talking (post-canine) dogs and memory palaces are introduced, and the reader feels like something really sinister is brewing. But the brew never starts to bubble, and in the end only fizzles.
Maya runs away to Europe, joins a group of intelligentsia and artists, and basically does...nothing. That's right. Nothing. The whole plot meanders and just when you think something is going to happen...nothing happens. Maya (Mia) goes hither and dither. She meets new people (Sterling introduces new characters as though he has an overstocked inventory on them), but hardly anything that they do ever makes any difference to the story.
There are many interesting ideas that are put forth in this book. And Mr. Sterling does an excellent job of describing the setting. It feels like the future he is describing could really be our future. However, all of this is ruined with endless discourse on fashion and philosophical mumbo-jumbo. You get the feeling that you are being hit over the head with Mr. Sterling's personal views and philosophies. The ideas presented in Holy Fire would have been much better suited to an essay. And perhaps this is just one more example of how ego can ruin a novelist?
If anyone is looking for me, I'll be reading Dan Simmon's Hyperion.