cover image Holy Fire

Holy Fire

Bruce Sterling. Spectra Books, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09958-4

Humanity's ancient dream of immortality is on the verge of becoming reality in the challenging new novel from erstwhile William Gibson (see below) collaborator Sterling (Heavy Weather, 1994, etc.). In Sterling's late 21st century, advances in cybernetics, nano- and virtual technology and medicine have transformed Earth into a near paradise. Vice and illness still exist, but they're largely voluntary or self-created, the result of not controlling one's appetites and not using the medical facilities provided free to those who live socially acceptable lifestyles. Mia Ziemann is a 94-year-old medical economist in a world ruled by a ""post-human"" gerontocracy. Life-extension technology is the world's major growth industry and Mia, like many of the elderly, has invested everything into qualifying for new and experimental rejuvenation techniques. After undergoing one of the most radical such procedures, Mia can now pass for 20 but is borderline psychotic. She trades her careful, upscale existence for life on the streets with the restless young, wandering through Europe in search of stimulus and meaning. There, she finds herself surrounded by artists, anarchists and bohemians who, frustrated by their powerlessness, want to involve her in a radical scheme to change the world. Sterling is never an easy writer, especially for casual fans of SF. Here, as usual, he offers intellectual rather than action fare, as discussions of the morality of immortality alternate with debates over aesthetics and the future of high fashion. The future Sterling traces is plausible and provocative, particularly his consideration of several contrasting cultures, and of the disenfranchised who are unable to become ""post-human."" Those interested in serious speculative conversation set within a very strange near-future will find this much to their taste. Major ad/promo. (Oct.)