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Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book) by Bruce…

Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book) (original 1996; edition 1997)

by Bruce Sterling

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8661210,292 (3.53)10
Title:Holy Fire (Bantam Spectra Book)
Authors:Bruce Sterling
Info:Spectra (1997), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling (1996)



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Mia Ziemann is 93, but looks thirty thanks to advances in medical technology and living life very carefully. The world has survived a prolonged bout of plague and disease, and a significant portion of the global economy is devoted to keeping people alive and healthy for as long as possible, an interval that is growing all the time. After a radical new treatment gives her the appearance of a twenty year old, Mia experiences side effects which appear to give her the mind of a twenty year old, too, and in a sort of fugue state, she ditches the paraphernalia that is carefully monitoring her every move and takes off for Europe. There she encounters a typically Sterlingian cast of drop-outs, thieves, artists, intellectuals, bohemians and radicals. These are the young in a world dominated by the old and the rich. Stifled and coddled by a society made utterly safe but with no way to compete with or replace the dominant gerontocracy, the young foment and plan and strive to make their own stamp on the world.

This is a thoughtful, mature, ultimately moving novel about creating art and rebellion in a society where everything seems wrapped in cotton wool, where the only thing to rebel against is the indifference of those in power and where the people may not be human anymore, and therefore no longer capable of creating art. It's stuffed with big ideas and, unlike a lot of the books that came out of the cyberpunk movement, seems as relevant today as when it was first published. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
As always, I find Sterling to be one of the most prophetic writers of our times. This book describes how man will break through the age barrier, and begin his ascent into immortality. Scary to think, but this will all one day become true in one form or another. A must read for all cyberpunk fans of Sterling. A writer who dares to guess our future just 50 years out. And without surprise-- who turns out to be right! ( )
  sgarnell | Jul 10, 2012 |
Holy Fire is a fascinating story about the social changes caused by readily available rejuvenation technology. By the end of the 21st century it is possible to be active and working well into your second century and rejuvenation techniques are getting better every year, but although bodies can be rejuvenated attitudes can not and the rejuvenated old, known as posthumans, are very different from the truly young. The world is a gerontocracy, with all money and power in the hands of the old, while the disenfranchised young are treated dismissively and patronisingly by the old, almost as if they are pets. The young have all the imagination and inspiration but live in a cash economy, unable to get hold of 'real money' (i.e. investable currency) or make progress in their chosen careers, since the old no longer make room for them by retiring.

Mia found herself in an architect's office. There was a big desk in simulated woodgrain, and painfully gleaming brass lamps, and algorithmic swirls of simulated marble. The chairs were puffy, overstuffed, and swaddingly comfortable. Old people's chairs. They were the kind of chairs that top-flight furniture designers had begun making back in the 2070s, when furniture designers suddenly realized that very old people possessed all the money in the world, and that from now on very old people were going to have all the money until the end of time.

The posthumans are set in their ways and exceedingly cautious with their health, since medical records are available for all to see, and the best upgrades are only available to those who have taken good care of themselves. This is the story of what happens when one of them, 93-year-old Californian medical economist Mia Ziemann undergoes a radical new upgrade technique which seems to make her truly young again. Escaping from medical supervision during her convalescence, she rejects her old life and name, running away to Europe to hide as an illegal within the vivid subcultures of the young.

When Maya saw the raw shots on Novak's notebook screen, she was elated and appalled. Elated because he had made her so lovely. Appalled because Novak's fantasy was so revelatory. He'd made her a bewitching atavism, a subterranean queen of illicit chic for a mob of half-monstrous children. Novak's glamour was a lie that told a truth.

I liked the postcanines, talking dogs with artificially augmented intelligence that can work as anything from bouncers to chat-show hosts, and for some reason the idea of having bean-bag seats on trains and aeroplanes really appealed to me. ( )
  isabelx | Mar 15, 2011 |
In the year 2095, 94-year-old Mia undergoes an experimental youth-restoring treatment. She emerges from the procedure a very different person and quickly ditches her medical monitoring and runs off to Europe.

Life-prolongation techniques and their possible consequences to society are venerable old SF subjects, but Sterling somehow manages to make them feel surprisingly fresh. His world-building is top-notch: detailed, well-thought-out, imaginative and original. And he touches on a great many weighty topics -- age, youth, creativity, identity, technology, rebellion -- in ways that may not be extremely cohesive, but are nevertheless fascinating. There's not really all that much the story itself, and some of the most significant plot points seem to happen off-screen, so to speak, and are only lightly sketched in. Plus most of the characters are hip, pretentious, arty types, which is something that normally puts me off. So I think it really says something about Sterling's writing that I found this extremely absorbing, anyway. ( )
  bragan | Jun 7, 2010 |
In 2095, the world has been through some rough pandemics and wound up run by a gerontocracy facilitated by advanced medical technology. Mia Ziemann has been careful enough to make it to age 94 before finally deciding to try a full rejuvenation treatment, and decides to try the new cutting-edge technology— which, in addition to restoring physical youth, also adds a lot of fresh new brain cells to replace the ones lost over the decades. And with a head full of fresh neurons and a body coursing with youthful hormones, the rejuvenated Mia finds that she has an all-new set of priorities that don’t match the life she led before. This carries her off on an escapade into Europe and a world of disaffected young artists who aren’t so thrilled to be in a society run by and for the aged.

The future society is very believable, and Sterling put a lot of good thought into an artistic world a century from the time the book was written. The story itself has world-sized problems without world-sized solutions; it’s a good cautionary tale that warns of what can go wrong, but only provides a basis for speculation about how to do things right. ( )
1 vote slothman | Oct 25, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bruce Sterlingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dinyer,EricCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warburton, HollyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mia Ziemann needed to know what to wear at a deathbed.
A marriage always seems such a good idea when you're about to commit one.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 055357549X, Paperback)

In an era when life expectancies stretch 100 years or more and adhering to healthy habits is the only way to earn better medical treatments, ancient "post humans" dominate society with their ubiquitous wealth and power. By embracing the safe and secure, 94-year-old Mia Ziemann has lived a long and quiet life. Too quiet, as she comes to realize, for Mia has lost the creative drive and ability to love--the holy fire--of the young. But when a radical new procedure makes Mia young again, she has the chance to break free of society's cloying grasp.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the 21st Century, suffering and illness have been banished as everything from food to education is free, but boredom still plagues mankind. So after undergoing an operation to rejuvenate herself by 75 years, Mia Ziemman travels to Prague to join bohemians seeking meaning in life.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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